|Book Reviewed||Adventures of Don Quixote by Cervantes / Argentina Palacios | 978-0486407913|
|Grade Level||4 - 7|
Don Quixote is considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written. It has undoubtedly produced two of literature’s most memorable characters: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Though published in 1605 it still speaks to our own time and place through the story of an idealistic knight and his practical sidekick.
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Discussion Questions for the Adventures of Don Quixote
- Why do you think Don Quixote believed all the fantastic tales he read about knighthood? (pg. 1)
- When the man says he will not beat the boy and pay him the money he owes him, why is Don Quixote willing to believe him? (pg. 7)
- What do you think Don Quixote means when he says to Sancho, “you should put your eyes on yourself, that is, you should know yourself, which is the most difficult knowledge of all”?(41)
- In Chapter 14 (pp. 41-43) Don Quixote gives Sancho advice about being Governor. Read the chapter again. As you are reading stop after each new piece of advice to think about it: Is it good advice? Do you agree with it? What does it mean?
- Why does Sancho decide to leave the “island” he is governing?(51) Do you think this was the right decision?
- Why do you think Don Quixote sees things that are not there?
- Did you like Don Quixote? Why or why not?
- Do you think he was crazy?
- Did you like Sancho Panza? Why or why not?
- Were you glad Don Quixote gained his sanity at the end of the book? Why or why not?
- Is it crazy to want to right the wrongs of the world? Why or why not?
Quotes by Cervantes
Good painters imitate nature, bad ones spew it up.
—El Licenciado Vidriera in Novelas Ejemplares
Everyone is as God has made him, and oftentimes a great deal worse.
“He preaches well who lives well,” replied Sancho, “and I know no other theologies than that.”
A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.
The road is always better than the inn.
The World of Literature with Mr. Draeger
Read how I first entered the World of Literature (opens new window) »
Ever Meet a Knight?
In my effort to tell you about Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, I waited around my house all day hoping that somehow I could once again enter The World of Literature. I hid in my hall closet, I climbed into the attic, I slid under my bed and I even dug a hole and jumped into it. Nothing happened. The next day I wandered around the neighborhood looking for bushes that I could jump into. I climbed into several of those big trash containers hoping that they might be the door to Iris’s world. But, alas, I only smelled bad for my trouble.
I decided to go the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Grossmont Center (that’s in a mall here in La Mesa, California) to find out about the great Cervantes myself. I wish there was some way to enter The World of Literature when I want to and not only when I’m summoned. At the bookstore I could not find anything so I asked one of the clerks, a young, tall, thin woman, if she would help me. She told me they had two books about Cervantes and that I should follow her. We walked past the sections on history, science, fiction, religion, philosophy . . . and biography.
“Miss,” I said. “There’s the biography section.”
“They’re not there,” she said.
We continued walking right out of the bookstore.”
“Ummm, where are we going?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought you knew we had another location in the mall. We’ve expanded.”
“Oh, okay,” I said.
We walked to the old Montgomery Ward building right across from Cost Plus. She pulled out a key, opened the door, flipped a light switch and we walked in. Everywhere I looked there were books. Dark wooden shelves ascended up to the ceiling 30 or 40 feet. Tall ladders on rollers stood in each aisle. It didn’t have the new bookstore smell, it had a musty, almost basement kind of odor to it, like we were down in a deep cave.
“It’s over here,” she said.
We turned down an aisle, she rolled a ladder to the spot she wanted, then climbed it to the very top, pulled out a book and brought it down.
“Here,” she said. “Why don’t you flip through it and tell me what you think?”
It was a thick, heavy book. Its brown, leather cover indicated it had been around for decades, if not centuries. The title had nothing to do with Cervantes. It said, simply, “Igor Noston Primastonia.” Slowly, I opened it.
“So, you want to know about Cervantes, do you?” said a voice with an Australian accent. “Well, I’m your ticket. What do you want to know? Lay it on me, mate!”
This was no book, this was—was—Igor Noston Primastonia in all his glory—thin, mustached lips on the left and a very round ear on the right, except that it had an abnormally large earlobe. I didn’t drop Igor like I did Gunther some weeks back, but when I looked up I was no longer in the old Montgomery Ward store—I was in Iris’s tree in The World of Literature about 500 feet up. I stood on a platform with stairs above and below it, the same ones I walked up when I first came to this world. More of Igor’s friends lined the shelves in front of me.
“Ah yes,” Igor said. “Cervantes. Quite a man, mate. By the way, what is your name? I’ve not seen you ’round here before.”
“Glen,” I said, “Glen Draeger.”
He laughed. “You’re the one who dropped Gunther! He told us all about it. Anyway, that’s a peculiar name you have, but you look like a peculiar fellow. Anyway, as I was saying, Cervantes—you do mean the Cervantes who wrote Don Quixote, don’t you?”
“Yes,” I said a little hesitantly. “Where’s Iris?” I asked still feeling confused.
“She’s around. She told me someone would be coming who wanted to know about Cervantes, but she didn’t tell me your name. So, as I was saying or, more accurately as I was about to say, Cervantes wrote one of the greatest novels ever written: Don Quixote.” He said the title slowly and with reverence. “Did you know that Cervantes is often called the father of the novel?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You didn’t!! Iris said you are teacher. Oh no, oh my, am I going to have to completely educate you? This is a problem. What other ignorances do you possess?”
“If I knew what they were I wouldn’t possess them,” I said with some irritation. His breath was bad, like he had eaten half a garlic pizza, so I moved him away from me by placing him on a shelf. I took two steps back.
“Ho, ho! Touche, touche! Feisty, aren’t you? Now, as I was saying, Cervantes was the father of the novel. He presents Don Quixote as a real person, unlike the other books of his day that had all kinds of improbable things happen. Many other writers were influenced by Cervantes. But he wrote many things before he wrote Don Quixote. He wrote plays for the theatre, poems and a romance novel.”
“A romance novel?”
“Not like your romance novels. Remember, this was the year 1585.”
“Then he wrote Don Quixote?”
“No, no, no! Cervantes was an adventurer. Let’s start at the beginning. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in Spain in a small town near Madrid in 1547. We don’t know much about his childhood or his teen years but by 1570 he was a soldier and in 1571 he fought in a sea battle against the Turks. He was very brave. During the battle he was sick but refused to stay below the deck. He took two gunshot wounds in the chest and a third one caused him to lose the use of his left hand for the rest of his life.”
“Wow,” I said. “Sounds terrible.”
“Not as terrible as what happened to him next. On a voyage in 1575 he was captured and sold into slavery.”
“You do know what that is, don’t you?”
“Yes, I just didn’t know—”
“That the great Cervantes had been a slave? Your ignorance is only surpassed by how foolish you look with arms and legs. Now let me continue. He was a slave for five years. Think about that for a little while.”
“I’m thinking,” I said.
“Four times he tried to escape. He never made it. His family finally saved enough money to buy him back.” Igor stopped speaking abruptly then, after a few seconds, he said, “Mate, would you do me a favor?”
“Sure,” I said wondering why I agreed since he had been rude to me.
“My ear itches, would you scratch it?”
This was, under the circumstances, an understandable request, but, still, a little—well, gross. This ear had some long hairs and, frankly, it needed some cleaning.
“Where?” I asked.
“On the top—-a little higher—higher—lower—right there, perfect. Thanks, mate! After Cervantes was released his life settled down. He had lots of jobs over the course of his life: soldier, royal messenger, he bought supplies for the Spanish Armada and he collected taxes. It was not until 1605 that the first part of Don Quixote was published. He was 58 years old.”
“The first part? We only have one part. Why is this book so famous? It’s so short.”
“Short!! Someone must have taken an ax to the version you have. It’s a long book—about 1,000 pages in most editions. Why famous? It’s because of Don Quixote, the man who wants to save the world, the man who wants to right all wrongs. A good man and an idealist.”
I was about to ask the question but before I could Igor spoke.
“You don’t know what an idealist is? Oh Mate,” he said quietly and as if I was a hopeless case, “an idealist is one who lives by his or her ideals, that is, he or she lives by a set of rules or goals and no matter what happens they stick to them.”
“Like Don Quixote living the way he thought a knight should even though it always got him in trouble?”
“Mate, there may be hope for you yet. And then there’s Sancho Panza,” he said exuberantly. “Do you know what ‘panza’ means in Spanish? No? It’s ‘belly.’ Sancho desires food and money. He wants things that are real. You could call him a ‘realist.’ He’s practical. A knight may be very brave, but even the very brave need pizza for their bellies.”
Suddenly, from behind me a huge sword crashed down near Igor Noston Primastonia. It knocked him off the shelf and he fell to the floor—wide open, facing up.
“You fool,” a voice from behind me yelled. “A knight needs only the love of his fair lady and for me that is the love of Dulcinea del Toboso. Don’t talk to me of any other needs than the love of the fairest creature of all God’s creation!”
“You idiot!” cried Igor. “You could have killed me!”
“And I will if you do not repent of your evil assertions!” At this he raised his sword high above his head.
You may be wondering what I was doing at this time. The instant the sword hit, I grabbed my head and fell to the ground. Then as Don Quixote talked I crawled a few feet away and pulled myself up. When Don Quixote was about to make his second blow on poor Igor, who was now open on the floor, I spoke.
“Sir—ah—Sir Knight of the Dead Lion, I mean, Knight of the Lions, please don’t hurt my friend, show mercy—mercy—mercy,” I stammered as no more words would come to me. “Mercy—a true knight shows mercy to those who—who—who are weak—weaker than they are.” He had turned toward me, his sword still above his head and although he seems funny, inept and quite klutzy in your book, I forgot all that staring at this tall, thin man who held a sword that might at any moment split my head open like watermelon.
Then I heard another voice behind me.
“Master, Master!” it cried. “Please, don’t hurt him. The enchanters are playing tricks again.”
I turned. It was Sancho Panza. He was much shorter than Don Quixote with a large, round belly, dark hair, dark eyes and an expression of fear, respect and pity all rolled into one.
“Master,” Sancho Panza said, “he is right. Mercy is a trait of great knights.”
“That is true,” he said slowly. “I am Don Quixote de la Mancha, the merciful knight.” He looked down at Igor. “I shall spare your life, you ingrate, and hope that in the future you will remember the power of the love of Dulcinea del Toboso.”
Igor seemed to realize that his anger would not help his precarious position so he said, “Thank you, Knight of Mercy, I shall spread your words from this day forth.”
With that Don Quixote turned and began to descend the steps speaking quietly to himself as Sancho Panza followed: “Fairest Dulcinea del Toboso, once again your love has given light to the blind and spread truth . . . “
I picked up Igor.
“Well,” he said, “That was close. Anyway, Cervantes published the second half of Don Quixote about 10 years later partly because someone else published a Part II. Cervantes even criticizes it in his Part II. He died in 1616, the same year as Shakespeare, some even say on the same day. He left the world with two of the most famous fictional characters it has.”
I was about to say something when everything went dark. To my right I could see some light and I walked slowly toward it. It felt like glass and I began banging on it—getting fairly nervous. Then I peeked out. It was the mall, I was in the old Montgomery Ward building. I found some light switches. It was completely empty—nothing. I heard someone running toward the doors and I knew no one would believe me. Across the way I saw two emergency exits. I ran toward one of them, burst out and found myself on a sidewalk outside the mall. I walked briskly into the parking lot, found my car and drove away.
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