How did Cervantes through Don Quixote influence such writers as Defoe, Richardson, Fielding or Swift?
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The major impact that Cervantes had through his literary work was through the creation of the picaresque novel, which was a novel where the main character was not a chivalric hero but a much more earthy, humorous rogue who records his or her travels as they journey through life. The picaresque novel is normally one that is satirical. For example, note the way that the hilarious mistake that Don Quixote makes by mistaking windmills for giants allows Cervantes to mock those who live by imagination rather than reality:
"Now look, your grace," said Sancho, "what you see over there aren't giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone."
"Obviously," replied Don Quixote, "you don't know much about adventures.”
Don Quixote's rather exasperated reply ironically reveals the gap between imagination, as characterised by his way of looking at the world, and reality, which is characterised by the erstwhile sidekick, Sancho Panza. The impact of Certvantes' work is clearly seen in the literature of his literary descendants, such as Defoe, Richardson, and Swift. Consider, for example, the way that Moll Flanders could be viewed as a kind of picaresque novel in the way that it focuses on the journeying through life of a woman who is in no way a traditional heroine, but in fact works as a prostitute and commits several crimes during the course of the novel. In the same way, Gulliver's Travels clearly takes some of the aspects of the picaresque form and uses them to create this work that satirises current events at the time of writing. Cervantes' work is therefore shown to be extremely influential in the way that it impacted the literature of those who came after him.
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