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Any U.S. politician who is convinced that he/she will be able to contribute effectively to changing the make-up of the political world is a Don Quixote. Jesse Ventura made attempts as governor of Minnesota winning an incredible victory on an indepedent ticket in an extremely liberal state, but, although he did effect some changes, he later expressed his frustrations and left the political arena, saying his farewells to the press, whom he called Jackals.
I tend to agree more with #3 than with #2 in regarding Don Quixote as a delusional figure with a skewed view of reality. As such, I think of Kim Jong-Il or Gadaffi as kind of Don Quixote figures, though without the element of satiric humour that accompanies the literary figure.
I'm going the other direction from the previous post. To me, Don Quixote is a delusional person who sees the real world through the lens of his chivalric fantasies. Therefore, I would say that you should look for contemporary characters who try to interpret the world through their own lens, regardless of what the real situation is.
I think that you could put any politician that you do not like in this category. For example, a liberal would say that George Bush was a Quixote-like figure who divided the world into terrorists and good guys and went after anything that he perceived as terrorism no matter what it really way. You could criticize liberals the same way, saying they are blinded by their commitment to the environment or racial equality, or whatever. Whenever you have someone who interprets everything they see through their own simplistic lens, you have a Quixote.
This is a fascinating question. Honestly, it compels thought. On one level, I think that any freedom fighter or individuals animated by the pursuit of social change could be seen as a contemporary version of Don Quixote. They fit the classification simply because they see what should be out of what is. People like Dr. King, Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, and the Dalai Lama would top such a list for me. They face public rebuke for their stances and pursue their quests regardless of what others would say. Whether they fight for the rights of people of color, the rights of workers, or the hope of reclaiming their own homeland, these individuals struggle through an uncaring world in the pursuit of their vision of harmony, similar to Quixote.
In the realm of literature, I think that one can find many Quixote parallels between the main character of Cervantes' work and the protagonist in Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. McMurphy's fight centers around the rights of the patients in Nurse Ratched's ward. McMurphy is able to befriend the Chief and get him to buy into the vision of a world that exists outside of the mental institution and outside of Ratched's control. The fact that he is able to convince the Chief to lift the cement console and help him achieve his freedom is a reflection of his Quixotic nature. While he becomes a victim to his dream, McMurphy's pursuit is able to inspire others to enjoy the freedom that he so coveted. In the end and as a result of his failure in the short term but long term success, McMurphy is a Quixotic figure. For McMurphy and Quixote, dreams become a vehicle to a world that likes beyond what is and represents what should be.
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