Although living in fictional settings, literary characters can be just as complex if not more so than real life people. They are creations of a writer and as such can experience the spectrum of human emotion, tribulation and joy within a few pages of a book. Some famous characters include Hamlet, Odysseus, Don Juan and of course, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. These characters all experienced dramatic twists of events that forced them to reconsider their role in life, speculate on their worth as a character and contemplate the world around them. In doing so many of them seem to experience bouts of insanity and Don Quixote is one such character. Many critics suggest that Don Quixote’s delirium is a result of his struggles and inability to find balance in his life and others offer the idea that he is merely pretending to be insane to illustrate his internal confusion. In looking closely at Don Quixote’s episodes of madness, it becomes clear that it is nothing more than a conscious decision in an attempt to show others what he is feeling inside.
When the novel begins, it seems as though Don Quixote has gone insane from reading too many tales about chivalrous knights and is journeying out himself in order to explore the fabled world. Many believe this is the key to his insanity and proof that indeed his very motive for the whole journey is a delusion. But his motive is one of intelligence on both his part as a character and that of the author. By organizing the story in such a way, Cervantes is showing his audience that stories can be real, that they are not merely pages but experiences to be had. Don Quixote’s decision to embark on a journey based on books, and his journey subsequently being one of the greatest books of all is a call to the reader to take active part in reading and to enjoy life itself. It is a plea that everyone’s person journey is worthy of literature and not an insane idea at all.
Furthermore, Don Quixote displays many signs of his clear intelligence and critical thinking throughout the whole novel. He converses throughout the story on topics such as literature, government and politics and even how to be a knight. He may have had a silly motive for his journey, but he sees the world clearly throughout the novel and is able to perceive the truth from the lies and judge between good and evil. At the conclusion of the novel, Don Quixote declares his sanity, something which should be taken at face value and not overly analyzed. Cervantes’ makes a point in having the character make this announcement: that everyone is in his own way insane and clear-headed. That there is no judge to one’s perception of the world and how they chose to act.
Don Quixote’s actions throughout the novel can be viewed as either a journey of insanity or an experience like no other. His madness is only his attempt at negotiating his identity to the readers and demonstrating the idea that madness is subjective and that his epic journey would not have been so exciting had he stuck with the rules of society. It is not a real madness but rather a delirium for a life of adventure and the urging to experience the great tales that are told in novels and to be one of those characters. His madness is one that if feigned and exaggerated to demonstrate how exciting life could be if one only was daring enough to stop sitting and reading novels, but go out and make journeys worth books of their own.