Don Quixote maintains his illusion that he is a knight errant through many adventures and dangerous encounters during his journeys, always managing to keep reality at bay. He suffers hunger, goes without sleep, and endures numerous physical injuries while pursuing his romantic dream. Quixote leaves his home upon his horse Rocianante with great eagerness:
. . . so many were the wrongs that were to be righted, the grievances to be addressed, the abuses to be done away with, and the duties to be performed.
These noble desires formed the foundation of Quixote's romantic dream: to make the world a better place through selfless acts of courage and honor.
His great dream is destroyed, finally, through the intrusion of reality. At the conclusion of the novel, Quixote is a tired old man who has worn himself out. When his friend Carrasco, disguised as the Knight of the White Moon, defeats him in battle, Quixote is honor bound by their previous agreement to give up his life of knighthood, return to his village, and remain there for a year.
Back in his home and cut off from his life as a knight errant, Quixote falls into depression, but he does not give up his dream. He plans to live as a shepherd until he can leave home once again. However, his health fails, his doctor is summoned, and Quixote takes to his bed as his death draws near. Awaking from a long sleep, Don Quixote cries out:
Blessed be Almighty God who has given me so many blessings! Truly his mercy is boundless and is not limited or restrained by the sins of men.
Quixote's niece senses a change in her uncle; he seems more rational, and his words differ from his previous, often disjointed ramblings about the illusionary world of chivalry in which he has lived. As his niece listens, Quixote continues:
My mind now is clear, unencumbered by those misty shadows of ignorance that were cast over it by my bitter and continual reading of those hateful books of chivalry.
Don Quixote has returned to reality; his romantic dream has been destroyed. He is once again Alonso Quixano. He will never again ride forth to free the oppressed, to protect the innocent, or to bring justice to an unjust world. He dies shortly thereafter.