Don Quixote Part II: The first dozen chapters

Posted April 7, 2019 by Lory in Readalong / 8 Comments

Don Quixote Reading by Adolf Schroedter

This is the inaugural post of my buddy read of Part II of Don Quixote, which I’ve been meaning to finish for more than a year. I’m so glad Emma from Words and Peace agreed to read a chapter a day (more or less) along with me!

We’ll be taking turns to post about our progress every couple of weeks, so here are my impressions of the opening chapters. In Part II, Don Quixote insists on returning to a life of knight errantry, in spite of the efforts of his friends and neighbors to restore him to sanity, and his long-suffering squire Sancho goes along for the ride once more. It takes a while to get going, but once they do there’s an encounter with the Don’s beloved lady Dulcinea, who has inexplicably been turned by wicked magic into a hideous peasant girl. Following this they meet a troupe of traveling players who play havoc with Sancho’s donkey, and then another lovelorn knight who seems to have the same chivalric madness.

What is real? To what extent do we see only what we want to see? And how can we ever truly meet one another, when we manipulate our perceptions according to our desires? As in Part I, these questions come up over and over again, with both comic and tragic ramifications. Don Quixote’s longing for the ideal feminine is noble, but his refusal to accept what is in front of his face is absurd. His servant is more pragmatic but no less ridiculous, with his eternal hope of gaining an “insula” from this mad quest. Maybe he goes along just because the adventure is more entertaining than ordinary life at home, in spite of all the pratfalls he takes.

So far, I feel Cervantes is just getting warmed up, coming back into the mode of the novel he left off ten years earlier. Where will this journey lead? Will Don Quixote actually learn something this time? I’ll be looking forward to finding out.

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8 responses to “Don Quixote Part II: The first dozen chapters

  1. I really enjoyed the second part of this work. As I recall, it is very different from the first part. You raise a good point about Sancho being along because it is an alternative to being home and leading a dull life. I think that this is true for Don Quixote too. I look forward to your upcoming posts on this book.

    • I’m really interested to see how it is different from Part I. Unfortunately I read that part so long ago my memory is a little foggy. Let’s hope it comes back.

  2. Thanks so much for launching our adventure together! I feel like Sancho, following as best as I can on my slow donkey! But I’m almost done with reading the MBI2019 longlist, so I’ll catch up!
    Apart from the element you highlighted in your post about perception of reality, I also like more literary points in this work, and I’m glad to have them back in volume 2, for instance the opinions on chivalry books, and the idea of a book within a book, as we see in the Dedication of this volume, and all along the first chapters.
    Another literary element I like is the author’s reflections on genre. We already had some of those in volume 1. Here we find them for instance in chapter 3 about history/poetry: “now and then beginning to show signs of being in his right mind”.
    And some hilarious plays on words, like on grammar and gram + mar! And both Teresa and Sancho use words for other words.
    It is also interesting to see mentions of reaction to the first volume. It made me curious, and I read that volume 2 was actually originally published as a sequel, 10 years after the first volume. That’s a long time, for a book now considered as one unit, and I’m looking forward to seeing the differences.
    If you take these reactions for granted, you may think that the reception of the work was poorly. But what’s real? What’s to believe?
    Should I trust Cervantes, or Wikipedia? For once, I’ll believe Wikipedia, which tells me the work was an immediate success, with even pirated editions!
    I like how Cervantes tries to fool us, when he presents Don Quixote “now and then beginning to show signs of being in his right mind” (chapter 1). Did you believe him? I actually didn’t, because what would have caused that change? And so obviously, we see little by little that his case might even be worse!
    And like in volume 1, those around him start making fun of him.
    And now Sancho is totally deluded himself! We discover a slightly different person in his way of speaking, when he is with his wife Teresa. But she is the one reasonable and down to earth.
    However, Sancho can also perceive the truth on Don Quixote and himself: “I have seen by a thousand signs that this master of mine is a madman fit to be tied, and for that matter, I too, am not behind him; for I’m a greater fool than he is when I follow him and serve him, if there’s any truth in the proverb that says, ‘Tell me what company thou keepest, and I’ll tell thee what thou art,’ or in that other, ‘Not with whom thou art bred, but with whom thou art fed”. (chap 10) And he can be very logical on how to treat his master based on the situation.

    • Don’t worry about catching up. I foresee I’m going to have some gaps in my own reading coming up. We’ll hobble along somehow!

      The “metafictional” aspects also stood out to me in this brief opening, but I couldn’t pull my thoughts together about them yet. I’m sure it will come up again — it’s a story all about how we tell ourselves stories, after all, and how fiction and reality intertwine. I’m really interested in that whole topic, so I will try to focus on it as we go along.

      Sancho makes the book really. Can you imagine it without him? And his poor wife, I wonder if we’ll see more of her.

      Anyway, onward we go!

  3. I’m so excited you’re doing this! It’s going to be great watching you progress and your thoughts along the way. Don Quixote is a great book to read this way, it’s quite episodic in form so it fits the little-by-little approach. It’s startling how resonant his treatment of Dulcinea is today in terms of gender politics – a testament to Cervantes’ talent!

    • I was surprised in the first part how little “Dulcinea” took part – I don’t think she ever actually appeared, though there was constant talk about her. I look forward to her presence in the second part and am interested in what you say about gender politics. In so many ways, it seems as though Cervantes is foreshadowing our modern mindset.

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