In Don Quixote there is a sharp contrast between two different types of marriage: arranged marriages where inheritance, money, property, and title are major constituents; and modern marriages based on a need for intellectual agreement, philosophic mutality, and emotional intimacy. One model highlights the ability to freely choose one’s romantic partner according to their essential nature, while the
other model emphasizes birthright, social standing, and political power as decisional determinants. One model values women as housekeepers, lust satisfiers, and child begetters, while the other model values a women for her inner being.
Dramatized through a series of courtship and sexual tales where characters marry not by arrangement, as expected, but for romantic love, instead, Cervantes elevates modern love over traditional marriage arrangements. First, there is Marcela who will not marry Grisostomo for his property, lands, or other monies. Then there is Quiteria the Fair who favors Basilio the Poor over Camacho the Rich. Likewise, Leandra does not want to marry a future grandee of Spain called Don Fernando. Instead she marries the much poorer and not as well connected Cardenio. All of these women forgo “good catches” favoring their childhood sweethearts instead.
Don Quixote is a unique novel because it discusses itself within the pages of itself. For example, when an old notebook of the history of Don Quixote is found at a bazaar in Toledo a Catholic Cannon reminds us that chivalry books do not follow the rules of Aristotelian writing. Also, when Cide Hamete El Benengeli, the book’s fictitious narrator, analyzes Don Quixote’s artistic genres he shows a concern for literature and language that signals Don Quixote’s Metafictionality. Given Don Quixote’s self-reflexive nature the book’s author becomes a character in the story who steps in-and-out of the tale. More largely, by referring to the author throughout the story, Cervantes does not let readers forget they are reading a fictional work. For instance, during the Captive Captain’s tale, we are told that Miguel Cervantes was the only man who emerged unscathed from his slavery. Another feature that defines Don Quixote as a work of Metafiction is that it mentions several works of fiction. For example, during the inquisition of Don Quixote’s library, Cervantes’s Galatea is retained for its original style. Later, when the innkeeper produces Rinconete and Cortadillo, another story by Cervantes, a local priest decides to read The Tale of Inappropriate Curiosity instead. Finally, since Don Quixote tends to call attention to itself as a literary artifact characters within the story are acutely aware that they are in a work of fiction. In brief, since Don Quixote self-consciously evaluates itself throughout its’ story-telling it is fiction about fiction, or Metafictional in nature.
The gallery of rogues in Don Quixote shows readers that a strong element of Picaresque realism runs throughout the narrative. While picaresque novels usually feature casteless, amoral, outsiders who feel inwardly unrestrained by societies prevailing mores and only appeal to conform to them when they think it suits their needs, Roque Guinart, a violent highwayman, and Gines de Passamonte, a gypsy thief, are a bit different. They rob less money then they can, feel situational frustration and even come to regret their crimes. Unlike Don Quixote, however, whose aim is to do “good to all and harm to none,” these picaros wander about from place to place under the cover of darkness, preying on people to survive. Never soiling their hands with an honest days work, Roque Guinart and Gines de Passamonte murder, deceive, and steal to survive.
Don Quixote de La Mancha, written in 1600-1615, is viewed as the world’s first modern novel. Since the book combines prose and verse, poems and stories, for the first time, it was novel, or new, for its time. Before Cervantes wrote Don Quixote literature consisted of devotional poems praising God, heroic epic written to honor the Gods, romantic ditties written for one’s lover, or letter writing novels featuring an epistolalry exchange between several different characters. With the advent of Don Quixote, however, this changed. Now stories were being written about everyday people doing everyday things.