Cervantes, as time has told, may have been wiser than us all.
I’ve been reflecting on a book I read years ago; one I didn’t even particularly enjoy but has that sticky quality that haunts you forever. I finally know why: I’ve pieced it together. Call it latent analysis.
Don Quixote isn’t just an imaginary man designed around self indulgence and becoming the hero of his own story, leveraging Sancho Panza selfishly to fulfill his destiny. He is an archetype of the worst kind of human being: the narcissist.
But what Don Quixote must come to terms with across his thousand page journey is that, for all the pining and searching and longing, there is no Dulcinea, the goal he has been sacrificing his life to reach. Like all narcissists, he has set himself up as both the hero and the victim and played each to its fullest ability, using others as needed along the way. All the while, he wears a mask of bravado even though he truly has no idea where he’s going. In his own mind, he has it all figured out: but we readers both pity and see through him. If only it were that easy to spot in real life.
Resultingly, Don Quixote is both one of the easiest characters in fiction to love and to hate. His naive innocence in finding his Dulcinea endears us to him, but his selfishness and single-sightedness turn our hearts to stone. We end up rooting for Panza.
We all must remind ourselves that there is no Dulcinea, there is only the journey you take with the ashes you scatter along the way. We can’t be so focused on our own ends that we forget everyone else’s means.
We must stop always dreaming the impossible dream. Because there’s a lot of wreckage that can get left in the wake.