Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. 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?
2. What attitude does the novel take toward social class? How is social class a factor in relationships between characters?
3. Like Hamlet’s madness, Don Quixote’s insanity is the subject of much controversy among literary critics. Is Don Quixote really insane, or is his behavior a conscious choice? What might account for the change in his behavior over the course of the novel?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Throughout Don Quixote, Cervantes claims that his novel is a true history about real people and based on documented evidence. Why does he make this claim? How do his games with history and authorship advance the themes of the novel?
2. Many characters in Don Quixote serve as foils, or opposites, of other characters. What role do these opposed pairs play in developing the novel’s themes?
3. What is the role of parody in Don Quixote? How does the novel mock books of chivalry, and how does it defend them? Do the characters who mock and try to humiliate Don Quixote come across in a positive or a negative light?
4. Don Quixote highly values genuine romantic love, yet many of the love stories embedded in Don Quixote are resolved only through trickery. What is Cervantes implying if true love in the novel can be realized only by deceit?
5. How would you characterize each of Don Quixote’s three expeditions? What is the significance of having three expeditions rather than one long expedition? How do the two parts of the novel differ?
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