Cervantes’ major piece of work, Don Quixote is regarded as the first modern novel and has since been an influence to all Western literature and inspired many literary movements. Written in two installments between 1605 and 1615, the novel focuses on the menacing consequences of idealism, the complex revival of chivalry, virtuous love, the disparity between harsh reality and idyllic imagination all fused together in one timeless classic.
The novel begins with the introduction of the protagonist Alonso Quijano, a seemingly rational middle-aged gentleman whose obsessive passion for chivalric books instigates his decision to become a knight-errant. He gathers the necessary knight equipment including a primitive sword, an old suit of armor and a horse well past its prime. To make matters official, he changes his name to “Don Quixote”, and designates a neighboring peasant girl, whom he refers to as “Dulcinea del Toboso”, as his love and revered princess. However, his role as a knight would be incomplete without a squire to accompany and tend to his needs, therefore he appoints his neighbor Sancho Panza to fulfill this position promising him governorship of an island. The pair set out through numerous bold escapades in order to restore the chivalric values Quixote so desperately yearns for. Throughout their adventures the hero and his trusted sidekick meet people of all sorts, including aristocrats, petty thieves, priests, tradesmen, duchesses and many other individuals who Cervantes effectively uses to portray and mock society. In spite of his good intentions, Quixote brings a tornado of destruction wherever he goes, and his quests seem to have the opposite effect.
Despite being written well over four hundred years ago, Don Quixote continues to incite curiosity and remains an enduring piece of literature. Most memorable for Quixote’s conflict between his sanity and his delusional picturesque view of reality, the novel captivates its audience with its moral implications. Cervantes’ focal point in his novel is ordinary human life which has a generous supply of accidents, failures and downright madness. Although Don Quixote may be regarded as a mock-epic, it does not fail to address troubling issues still relevant today. Celebrated as the world’s best work of fiction, Don Quixote is an essential element to everyone’s literary collection.