what I want of Dulcinea del Toboso she is as good as the greatest
princess in the land. For not all those poets who praise ladies
under names which they choose so freely, really have such mistresses.
. . .I am quite satisfied. . . to imagine and believe that the good
Aldonza Lorenzo is so lovely and virtuous. . . .
In this quotation from Chapter XXV of
the First Part, Don Quixote explains to Sancho that the actual behavior
of the farmer’s daughter, Aldonza Lorenzo, does not matter as long
as he can imagine her perfectly as his princess, Dulcinea del Toboso.
This idea of Dulcinea figures prominently in the novel, since we
never actually meet Dulcinea, and she likely does not even know
about Don Quixote’s patronage. Don Quixote’s imagination compensates
for many holes in the novel’s narration, providing explanations
for inexplicable phenomena and turning apparently mundane events
into great adventures. Dulcinea gains renown through Don Quixote’s
praise, and regardless of whether she is even real, she exists in
fame and in the imaginations of all the characters who read about
her. In this way, Don Quixote’s imaginings take on the force of
reality and he becomes, effectively, the narrator of his own fate.