2 Answers

  1. This is one of the most significant novels in the history of literature. That's why.

    First, Cervantes sums up in it a huge culture — the whole world of medieval chivalry, courtly politeness, a special manner of behavior. He does this with a parody: Don Quixote repeats the exploits he read about in the novels of chivalry, and copies the behavior of their heroes-without noticing their incongruity. Time has changed, and Don Quixote's down-to-earth compatriots, who are eager to declare him mad, know this very well. And yet, in Don Quixote, there is a place for exploits, and glory, and courtly love, and duels, and even Sancho Panza gets his piece of the pie. Cervantes parodies the romance of chivalry, but Don Quixote also asserts the spirit of chivalry, which means that it is immortal. Parodying, Cervantes creates a catalog of a passing culture, with its behavioral code, with its songs and wandering plots-but shows that the imagination is able to make sure that this culture does not go anywhere. It will live on, even if it is modified, even if it may seem ridiculous to some; let the country's political power finally fade (as soon happened with Spain). And the same can be applied to any complex culture.

    Secondly, Cervantes manages to create one of the archetypal, well-known literary heroes. We may not read Don Quixote, but we know about the Knight of the Sorrowful Image, and about the basin on his head, and about the nag Rocinante, and about the love of Dulcinea del Toboso, and, of course, about the fight with windmills. Don Quixote has become a part of our consciousness: that's what we call incorrigible romantics, those who live with dreams of a glorious past, those who are ready to behave chivalrously under any circumstances. (The Romantics, the nephews of Baroque sensibility and wit, claim definitively this anchoring of Don Quixote in the archetypal pantheon.) In a culture, at least in Europe, there are not so many archetypal characters that have outlived their time. Don Quixote is one of them, and Sancho and Dulcinea are probably the same.

    Third, this novel changed the book industry of its time. “Don Quixote” is one of the first bestsellers, not in absolute numbers, of course, but in relative numbers, although later, after the death of Cervantes, the circulation really became huge. The first part of the novel became so popular that even before the real second part was released, a fake one appeared (and Cervantes got out of the situation by dealing with the false “Don Quixote” in his own novel). Thanks to the well — established system of connections between the Old and New Worlds, Don Quixote was read on both sides of the ocean soon after its release-now it seems to us that it was nothing special, but for the beginning of the XVII century it was a rarity.

  2. The novel about Don Quixote is a key artistic reflection of Christian culture. At the heart of Christianity is the commandment to love one's neighbor and actively help him, even to the point of self-sacrifice. A Christian or a bearer of Christian culture is faced with a constant task: how to help your neighbor, what exactly to do to make it easier for him. Whether to pray for him, fight for him, instruct him, just give him money or food. The whole history of Christendom is marked by experiments and speculations about what kind of help is most effective, what kind of help is least likely to turn to evil. Is it enough to protect a person from an oppressor once, or should it be done on an ongoing basis? Is it enough just to give the beggar a gift, or is it just a sign-off from him, which in reality does not give anything, but you need to make sure that the help is used for good? Is it possible to help a person if they don't want to or don't understand it, by force? Is punishment the only real help in some cases? Emotions interfere with help as unnecessary affects, or without them it completely loses value, becomes soulless self-satisfaction? A kind of artistic generalization of all these reflections was the famous “Don Quixote” by Cervantes. Many works today follow in the footsteps of this novel, exploring similar questions: is it possible to be a good helper for people if you treat them badly (House, M. D.)? is it possible to devote yourself entirely to helping others at work, leaving your family behind (Horsemen, 2009)? if the ultimate help is to give a person a job, then is the gross exploiter the helper (The Devil Wears Prada, 2006)? if everyone is given a form of service to people in the form of a vocation, then what if it can only be realized through criminal activity (Breaking bad)? etc. All these works are essentially about various Don quixotes.

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