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The First Part, Chapters XXI-XXVI

Summary The First Part, Chapters XXI-XXVI

Analysis: Chapters XXI–XXVI

Cervantes examines the question of crime and punishment by contrasting Don Quixote’s actions with the actions of the galley slaves. Like the slaves, Don Quixote believes that his criminal actions are justified. He steals the basin from the barber, but his theft seems excusable because he is a chivalrous, well-meaning madman. Though Cervantes portrays Don Quixote’s crime as more excusable than the crimes of the galley slaves, we must nonetheless keep in mind that Don Quixote’s actions are still crimes, regardless of the fact that he commits them in the name of chivalry. This issue arises again when a priest argues that Don Quixote is insane and not, therefore, liable for his behavior. Here, when Gines de Pasamonte reappears and steals Dapple to Sancho’s great distress, Cervantes looks at crime from the victim’s perspective. Throughout the novel, the victim’s perspective—in this case Sancho’s—often gets lost amid the humorous narration of Don Quixote’s exploits.

Storytelling is central to Don Quixote. Everyone in the novel has a story, and telling these stories is a major part of the characters’ lives. The abundance of stories makes the novel’s narration less fluid. It is difficult to focus on Don Quixote’s adventures when other characters’ stories and the third-person narrator constantly interrupt us. However, these interruptions give us additional perspectives on Don Quixote’s story. Cardenio’s story, like the tale of Marcela and Chrysostom, does not relate directly to Don Quixote’s life, but it does inspire him to action. In particular, it inspires Don Quixote’s acts of penance, and this subsequent, obvious madness makes us question the heroic nature of Cardenio’s story. Though Cardenio had a valid reason for grieving, he may have, in becoming a wild man, overreacted to Lucinda’s rejection, in effect choosing his madness as much as Don Quixote chooses his.

At several points in these chapters, the translator of this particular edition, J.M. Cohen, analyzes several inconsistencies in the text. In Chapter XXII, for instance, Cohen points out that the text is inconsistent on the number of guns the guards possess. In the first description, Cervantes says there are two guns, but in the battle that follows, he accounts for only one gun. In Chapter XXIII, Cohen points out that the text is inconsistent concerning Gines’s theft of Dapple. Here, Gines steals Dapple, but later, Sancho is riding him through the mountains. Later, he again laments the loss of Dapple. Because Cervantes places so much emphasis throughout Don Quixote on the narrative layers in the story, it may be tempting to read these inconsistencies as deliberate attempts by Cervantes to remove himself even further from the narrative. It seems more likely, however, that these inconsistencies are merely unintentional errors on Cervantes’s part.