Don Quixote ultimately believes in the ideals of a bygone era – that of chivalry, knighthood, and honour. He thus insulates himself from the realities of his present world, choosing to believe in magic; imaginary knighthood quests for undiscovered kingdoms and even mistakes of windmills for giants that want to do battle with him. However, Don Quixote’s knight-errant, Sancho Panza, has a more realistic approach to the world and life, and acts as Don Quixote’s voice of reason and has a stabilising effect on the maniacal Quixote.
Don Quixote’s view of life is heavily influenced by chivalric romances. Due to this predisposition, his actions and his general perception of life is far removed from reality.
For instance, after his books are spirited way and burned because of concern by his relatives and associates that the books were driving him to insanity, he quickly believes the explanation by the housekeeper and his niece that the books were taken away by a magician (as per the housekeeper’s explanation).
His niece, on the other hand, tells him that the devil was the one that took away his books, and he accepts such outrageous claims (De Cervantes Chapt. 7 Par. 8). Don Quixote, due to his belief in the chivalrous mission he has set for himself, goes further than accepting these obviously false explanations. He holds that the alleged magician-devil was his well-known adversary (he even gives him the name ‘Friston’) whom he desired to fend off in his deluded quest for knighthood glory.
Additionally, Don Quixote begins a self-declared and fairy tale journey intended to conquer foreign islands and Kingdoms. Intensely influenced by the conquests of real knights of a past era, he recruits his peasant neighbour Sancho Panza as his knight-errant. Don Quixote then sets off on his mission with Sancho Panza, believing himself to be a knight out to conquer evil and restore goodness to humanity.
Because Don Quixote’s view on life is based on fantasies, his journey is easily crippled by his maniacal tendency of viewing nearly all things as either his enemies, or as an evil force out to fight him and thus stop his ‘noble quest’ (Williamson 838). He promises his knight –errant Sancho Panza that he was going to make him governor of the lands that he was set to conquer, a practice done by conquering knights of old, whom he read about in books and now wanted to emulate.
Don Quixote’s romanticized view of life shows when, during this journey, he perceives windmills as giant enemies (De Cervantes Chapt. 8 Para. 1). His subsequent attempt at fighting these stationary apparatuses leaves him and his horse hurt, and his knight-errant shocked and surprised at his master’s actions.
Sancho Panza has a realistic view on life. He acts as Don Quixote’s voice of reason, and many times, he attempts to dissuade Don from undertaking delusional acts in the name of chivalry.
Although he exhibits similar predispositions to his master by believing in Don Quixote’s quest for conquering imaginary foreign lands, (believing that Don Quixote would make him governor of these lands), he is nonetheless sober, and his actions are practical and unhinged on utopia, unlike his master. Sancho Panza correctly sees the windmills for what they are, unlike his master who believed they were giant enemies (De Cervantes Chapt. 8 Para 2).
Don Quixote farcical chivalric acts are born of a desire to emulate the characters he has come across in the books he read. He is an old man, and looking back at his life, he may have regrets of not having done much right, and his current fantasy-tinged attempts at correcting his past are the cause of his present maniacal behaviour (Worden 18).
On the other hand, Sancho Panza has a more realistic worldview because, as a poor peasant, he has experienced the vagaries of life first hand. Panza has experienced hunger, poverty, and want. His life experiences do not afford him the leisure of fantasy and dreamy beliefs like his master. Additionally, having never read romanticism literature that his master had, he is less inclined to believe in the chivalrous notions that Don Quixote swears by.
De Cervantes, Miguel. Don Quixote. Web.
Williamson, Edwin. “The Power-Struggle between Don Quixote and Sancho: Four Crises in the Development of the Narrative.” Bulletin of Spanish Studies 84.7 (2007): 837-858.
Worden, William. “Cervantes, Sancho Panza, and the literary world of don quixote.” Hispanofila 144 (2005): 17-31.