Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote

In July 2018, I became the organizer of the Mission Classic Novels Book Club. Check out the Book Club tab here or Meetup for more information. The second book we tackled was Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote. Because of its length, we spread it out over two months, tackling the first part in September 2018 and the second part in October 2018.

The following information was distributed:

Questions About Don Quixote, Book 1:
  1. Don Quixote is often called the first modern novel. Do you agree? Why or why not?

  2. Why do you think this is, according to most estimates, the best-selling novel of all-time?

  3. Lionel Trilling once claimed that “All prose fiction is a variation of the theme of Don Quixote: . . . the problem of appearance and reality.” Discuss.

  4. What was Miguel de Cervantes’s purpose for writing Don Quixote? Critics have debated the question of whether Cervantes’s intention in Don Quixote was to ridicule the chivalric romances…Do you think the book repudiates chivalry?

  5. What is the cause of Don Quixote’s possible madness? Is he even mad or, as Italian literary critic Giovanni Papini suggests, not mad at all, but merely pretending to be?

  6. How does Don Quixote’s perception of reality affect other characters’ perceptions of the world? Does his disregard for social convention change the rules of conduct for the other characters?

  7. Why do you think Sancho Panza sticks with Don Quixote throughout his adventures?

  8. Is there a moral center in Don Quixote? If so, which character occupies the center? If not, why would Cervantes leave this space absent?

  9. What attitude does the novel take toward social class? How is social class a factor in relationships between characters?

  10. What is the role of women as depicted in Part 1 of Don Quixote?

Questions About Don Quixote, Book 1:
  1. Is Quixote a tragic figure, a comic figure, or both?

  2. Is Don Quixote insane or merely eccentric?

  3. Why does Sancho Panzo follow and remain loyal to such a bumbler as Don Quixote?

  4. Does Don Quixote need Sancho Panza?

  5. What is the function of the invention of Cide Hamet Benengali?

  6. What is the significance of Sancho's self-lashing?

  7. What is the significance of Dulcinea del Toboso?

  8. What is the relationship between the intercalated novel of "The Curious Impertinent" and the main body of Don Quixote?

  9. What qualities does Cervantes consider most important in literary art?

  10. Consider whether you prefer Part I or Part II and why.

  11. Discuss some differences in Cervantes' treatment of Part I and Part II.

  12. Was Don Quixote lying when he told what had happened in the Cave of Montesinos?

  13. How is the cave used as a symbolic device in Don Quixote?

  14. What kind of attitude does Cervantes (as a voice in the book) have towards the Moor?

  15. What is the relation between madness or foolishness and wisdom in Don Quixote and Sancho Panza?

  16. Is there any way in which they seem wise or virtuous because of their oddities?

  17. How do you react toward those who use Don Quixote as an object of amusement (the Duke and Duchess, Don Antonio Moreno, etc.)? Is this different from or similar to your reactions to characters who did the same in Part One?

  18. What view of chivalry emerges from Don Quixote as a whole?

  19. Consider Don Quixote’s final repentance. What reaction did you have to it?

  20. Is it a fitting ending?

Sources for Questions:

Check out a 2017 movie version here: