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This essay analyzes Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. It outlines the main characters, themes, and questions raised by the author. The novel is a masterpiece that is known all over the world. Since its first publication, more than 277 years ago, it has remained one of the favorites of university students and those who appreciate a great piece of literature. It is a novel that is easy to remember and understand because of the title itself, Don Quixote. Reading Don Quixote’s summary is enough to get invested and start wanting to go through the whole thing.
The title is already an invitation to read. According to one commentary, there is a popular appeal, and the novel strikes a chord among readers (Cascardi, 2002, p.127). There is a reason why Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s story is well-known and much appreciated. That is because parody in Don Quixote is an excellent example of how to use humor in literature. What makes Don Quixote a parody? The answer to this question will be presented in the below paragraphs.
How is Don Quixote a parody?
What is a Parody? It is important to first understand the meaning of the word. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a parody is “a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect” (Merriam-Webster, 2010, p.1).
Two things need to be emphasized here to have a clear understanding of what a parody is. First, there is previous work completed and used as a basis by the writer to create a parody. In other words, there is an artistic work completed beforehand, and the author will base his work on it.
Secondly, it must be made clear that the author who is doing the parody is not merely copying or using another person’s work as a basis or inspiration for his work. To parody means to imitate or create something that ridicules the original. The purpose, of course, is for entertainment. A parody can be very useful depending on the ability of the writer and the subject matter used as a basis for writing the satire – the more popular and well-love the subject matter, the better. Don Quixote is one of the best-known examples of parody in world’s literature.
Don Quixote: Parody of Chivalric Romance
Don Quixote as a parody is a literary masterpiece and the famous body of work used as one of parody short story examples for the numerous novels and poems of chivalry that were famous three centuries ago. In a time when there was no television and radio, the stories about knights and their adventures are an essential form of entertainment available in post-medieval Europe (Paulson, 1998, p.3).
There were knights in shining armor, and there were beautiful women in trouble that requires rescue. The romance and adventure created a powerful mixture that resulted in the form of entertainment that serves as a distraction from a monotonous life before modern conveniences like cars, refrigerators, and microwave ovens became the norm. But after a while, some became tired of reading the same thing.
Some want alternatives. Others cannot believe the simplicity and the exaggerated stories found in those novels. That is the reason why Miguel de Cervantes parodied these chivalric novels. There was a significant response from the reading public (Paulson, 1998, p.4).
What Makes Don Quixote a Parody?
Examples of parody in Don Quixote are not merely a technique but the backbone of all the adventures in the novel. The author wanted everyone to see the truth behind the exaggerated tales of knights who are almost invincible and always gets to save the day no matter the odds that were stacked against them.
The author was able to show this not by giving a serious lecture but by using parody and in effect using humor to show that something is going on for so long that people are used to it, and no one dared question the effect or significance of these renaissance chivalric novels. The author, therefore, went on to create a character that is very much different from the usual characterization of a strong and courageous knight.
That is what makes Don Quixote a parody. The parody is seen in the fact that he was not a young man on the verge of discovering his identity and trying to prove to the world his courage and fighting skills by attacking the windmills.
In stark contrast, Don Quixote is already fifty years old, and the only reason that he was able to play the part of a knight is that he had time in his hands, and he had access to a small amount of money that allowed him to own a bony old horse. He also owned a few tools he by mistake thought as weapons that a real knight could use. He also had in his service a servant that he thought was a knight’s page.
The parody examples are seen at the very beginning of the novel because the author said that Don Quixote sold his property so that he can buy books about knights and their adventures. The reader is immediately made aware this is a parody of the actions of a chivalric hero, and that mirrors what happened to the people living in 17th century Europe.
The parody gets to the next level when Don Quixote, even in his old age and minimal means, decided to not only read but to become a knight. He wanted to emulate what he has learned in romances of chivalry. Thus, with an old armor and a bony old horse, he went out to rescue damsels in distress and performed mighty deeds even if to the outside world he seemed ill-suited for the job and more so, he looked ridiculous (Paulson, 1998, p.1). Thereby, the main character of the novel mirrored typical chivalric heroes of the time, as it is shown above in the essay. Don Quixote is a masterpiece that both young and old can enjoy because they can relate to it. The teenager who happens to hold Don Quixote in his or her hands will immediately understand the parody. They will appreciate how Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra tried to make an indirect but useful criticism with regards to the excesses of the Spanish court and society’s obsession with knights in shining armor who seem perfect no matter from what angle one views them.
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Those who are older can also appreciate this novel because of the sad and ridiculous behavior of an older man who had seen better days and desperately tried to recapture the glory of the past days. That means that a parody is not only expected to make people laugh and distract them from the monotony of daily existence. A parody points out a problem buy using humor instead of using a dull and ineffective lecture.
A parody is to use what is already popular and well-known and then to use it as a basis for writing something about an important topic. But it is common knowledge that people will not listen or take time to read a boring piece of literature. They will only understand if they are not only informed but also entertained.
This essay on Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes aimed to analyze the factors that make Don Quixote a parody of chivalric romance. The above paragraphs show the ways how the main character of the novel mirrored typical chivalric heroes of the time. That is the genius of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. He wanted to speak out against the 17th century’s obsession with romantic novels about knights and damsels in distress. But instead of writing an article that no one would read, he decided to create Don Quixote, and his message came across loud and clear. That is the power of parody.
Cascardi, Anthony. The Cambridge Companion to Cervantes. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Merriam-Webster. Parody. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2010. Web.
Paulson, Ronald. Don Quixote in England: The Aesthetic of Laughter. MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.