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Summary The First Part, Chapters XXXVIII–XLV
Summary The First Part, Chapters XXXVIII–XLV

Meanwhile, Don Quixote stands guard outside the inn. The innkeeper’s daughter and her maid, Maritornes, fool him into giving them his hand through a window. They tie his hand to a door and leave him standing in his stirrups on Rocinante’s back for the night. Four horsemen arrive and mock Don Quixote as they try to enter the inn.

Chapter XLIV

Don Quixote makes such a racket that the innkeeper comes out to see what is going on. The horsemen are servants to the father of Don Louis, the young lord in love with Clara. The four horsemen find Don Louis and order him to come home with them, but he refuses. The judge takes Don Louis aside and asks him why he refuses to return home. Meanwhile, two guests attempt to leave the inn without paying, and the innkeeper fights them. Don Quixote refuses to assist the innkeeper because he has sworn not to engage in any new adventures until he has slain the giant who captured Dorothea’s kingdom.

Cervantes returns to the conversation between Don Louis and the judge. Don Louis tells the judge of his love for Clara and begs for her hand in marriage. The judge says he will consider the proposal. Meanwhile, Don Quixote, through words alone, has successfully persuaded the two guests to quit beating the innkeeper. A barber—the same one from whom Don Quixote earlier steals the basin that he believes is Mambrino’s helmet—arrives at the inn. The barber accuses Don Qui-xote and Sancho of theft, but Sancho defends them by claiming that Don Quixote vanquished the barber and took the items as spoils of war.

Chapter XLV

The people at the inn play along with Don Quixote’s insistence that the basin is actually Mambrino’s helmet. A huge fight breaks out, but Don Quixote finally ends the brawl by asking the priest and the judge to calm everyone. The judge decides to bring Don Louis to Andalusia along with him and Clara, and he tells the servants about his plan. A member of the Holy Brotherhood, attracted to the scene by the outbreak of violence, realizes that he has a warrant for Don Quixote’s arrest for freeing the galley slaves. Don Quixote laughs at the man and rails about the stupidity of trying to arrest a knight-errant.

Analysis: XXXVIII–XLV

The captive’s tale and the story of Clara and Don Louis demonstrate that at least several of Don Quixote’s contemporaries share one of his most insane features—unfailing romantic idealization of women they do not even know. With the exception of Dorothea, the women in the First Part of Don Quixote are weak-willed, subservient creatures who rely on their husbands as masters. In the novel, men revere women for their beauty and their chastity, but women remain mere objects over whom men fight or drive themselves insane. Even Dorothea ingratiates and humiliates herself in order to win back Ferdinand’s affection, which seems to be little more than lust. In order to rebel, the women must dress as men and run away from home, but even then they remain frightened young maidens stranded in situations largely beyond their control. Zoraida stands out as the one seeming exception to this model, since she has the will to steal from her father in order to run away from home with the captive. As a Moor, she can step outside the bounds of the conventional roles governing the lives of Cervantes’s women, just as the character Anna Felix is able to do late in the Second Part. Nonetheless, we never hear Zoraida speak, and this muteness symbolizes her lack of power. Therefore, even though her ethnicity and religious passion make her unusual and suggest that she might serve as the model for a new kind of woman in the narrative, she remains an object and a marginalized figure.

With the story of the captive and Zoraida, Cervantes provides a largely autobiographical account of his life in captivity. Cervantes tried to escape captivity in Algiers three times before he was finally ransomed. The fanciful escape of the captive may, then, represent one of Cervantes’s fantasies. The detailed account of the war in which the captive fought is merely a soldier’s account of important historical events, nothing more. It bears no relation to the actual characters or events of the novel and therefore stands out as material related more to Cervantes’s life than to the story in progress.