Cultural Context of “Don Quixote” by M. de Cervantes

In the history of classical literary pieces, Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes enjoys one of the prominent positions among the masterpiece works and it is rightly considered as the foremost piece of fiction ever to be written by any important authors. The piece also holds the credit to be considered the first European novel and was published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615. Recognized as one of the classic pieces in world literature, Don Quixote has a significant cultural background that needs to be realized in a good appreciation of the novel. “Cervantes’ Don Quixote is recognized for opening the door to the possibilities of the novel. His deft characterizations and insights into human nature influenced Freud; who claimed that Cervantes led him to make several psychoanalytical discoveries. Don Quixote has been translated into almost every language and after the Bible, is the most widely published book in the world.” (Don Quixote Book Notes Summary, Author/Context, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra) The work written in two volumes celebrates the classic victory in the readership and the cultural context of the novel provided the exact reason for the popularity of the novel.

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The two parts of the novel combine in a skillful way to give the superb touch of genius and they are profoundly united to make the cultural meaning clear. The narrative sequence of the two pieces is combined as effectively as to give the best consequences of narration. The narrative unity of the work as well as the literary and cultural background of the characters and events appeals to the novel even higher. “Both are traditionally read as one work, thus increasing the book’s overall value. This is possible because of the profound unity gave the entire ensemble by the protagonist, who became the most famous literary character of the modern era, whose likeness has been represented more than any other… much of the book’s greatness derives from Cervantes having placed his protagonist’s idealizations in a very concrete and tangible context and allowed the clash between the two to play itself out… Much of Don Quixote’s originality is due to how Cervantes recycles narrative traditions and incorporates discourses that lie outside the literary.” (Cervantes’ Don Quixote: A Casebook. Roberto González Echevarría (ed). Oxford University Press: New York. 2005, p 4) Thus, the success of the novel depends on various factors, and the cultural context that the novel is written affects all these factors.

At the very start of the novel, a clear indication of the cultural context of the novel is provided and the novelist very well explains the cultural elements that play in the background of the protagonist. Thus, the protagonist, who lives in a corner of La Manch, is introduced as “one of those country gentlemen, who adorn their halls with a rusty lance and worn-eaten shield and ride forth on the skeleton of a horse, to the course with a sort of a starved greyhound. Three-fourths of his income was scarcely sufficient to afford a dish of hodge-podge… The remaining part of his revenue was consumed in the purchase of a fine black suit… He maintained a female housekeeper… this said gentleman at his leisure hours…addicted himself to the reading of books of chivalry, which he perused with such rapture and application…” (pp 11-12, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Translated by Tobias George Smollett, Spark Educational Publishing, 2004)

Several tensions make the novel by Cervantes a very significant piece and the comparison between the postures of Don Quixote’s mad delusions and the habits and structures of religious faith which is both uncomfortable and troubling makes the tension in the novel very obvious. The cultural context of the novel is very clear in this tension that exists in the character of Don Quixote. The novelist explores profoundly the significant issue of the distinction between pitiable delusion and justifiable faith to a great degree. It reaches a point in which the character considers himself as a secular militant and a literary crusader. Thus, the protagonist makes statements that reflect the theme of the Christian warrior’s need for faithful preparation. “Preparation is half the battle, and nothing is lost by being upon one’s guard. I know by experience, that I have enemies both visible and invisible, and I know not when, nor from what quarter, nor at what time, nor in what shape, they will encounter me.”

(Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Translated by Tobias George Smollett, Spark Educational Publishing, 2004) This aspect in the character points to one of the prominent cultural contexts of the novel. There are also various other indications of the cultural context of the novel which is central to the proper understanding of the novel. Thus, the conversation which the protagonist undertakes with Don Diego also suggests the significant cultural context of the novel. “Another aspect of Cervantes’ cultural context comes into view in Don Quixote’s initial conversation with Don Diego. Don Diego’s son has become a poet. In this era, the young poet faces the question of whether to write in the vernacular spoken language, Spanish, or Latin, the classical and more esteemed language. Working with all due respect to the classical works, writers like Cervantes deliberately focused upon establishing literature written in their language. The political unification of Spain mandated and enforced the imposition of Castilian as the Spanish language (as opposed to one of the four rival dialects).” (Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters 16-18, Grade Saver).

Therefore, it is notable that Don Quixote became the first major Castilian work of enduring literary quality. It is also remarkable in this context that Miguel De Cervantes fundamentally contributed to the Spanish language and literature greatly and this is comparable to what Dante had contributed to the Italian language earlier. All these factors make clear the cultural context of the novel and therefore the implications of the novel in the cultural background of Spain must be comprehended to make a clear appreciation of the novel.

The cultural implications of the novel go beyond the apparent influences of the novel and it is obvious that Miguel De Cervantes is considered even in the modern cultural situation of Spain and Europe as a very influential figure. Don Quixote is often regarded as a significant piece that criticizes the cultural ways and the old-fashioned chivalric traditions of the middle ages. The main character has been central in this interesting satirizing of the culture. “Don Quixote is typical of the Renaissance in the way that it satirizes the chivalric traditions of the Middle Ages as absurdly old-fashioned. The crazed and impoverished Spanish noble who sets out to revive the glory of knighthood has been romanticized in the popular modern musical, The Man of La Mancha; but Cervantes has little compassion for the “impossible dreams” of his protagonist, who refuses to face facts even when he is hit over the head with them. Even though his relatives have taken away the chivalric romances which they think have driven him mad and tried to confine him, he has escaped with his squire Sancho Panza who is much less learned but a good deal saner than his master.” (Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote, 1605)

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To conclude, the cultural implications of the novel Don Quixote must be efficiently reviewed for a greater comprehension of the novel’s literary merit. Apart from the literary value of the novel, it is often considered an efficient communicator of the cultural norms and aspects of the land. Miguel De Cervantes is rightly considered a true master aware of the cultural heritage of the land and he makes a remarkable contribution to the cultural, linguistic, and literary scene of Spain. This analysis of the cultural context of Don Quixote has been, therefore, a functionary in a profound understanding of the cultural, social, religious, and literary significance of the novel.


Don Quixote Book Notes Summary, Author/Context, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Web.

Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Translated by Tobias George Smollett, Spark Educational Publishing, 2004.

Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters 16-18, Grade Saver. Web.

Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote, 1605. Web.

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