Meaning of Don Quixote in the 21st CenturyThe character of Don Quixote is referenced often in today's world. He might be nearly 400 years old, but he is hard to seems someone is always...

Meaning of Don Quixote in the 21st Century

The character of Don Quixote is referenced often in today's world. He might be nearly 400 years old, but he is hard to seems someone is always tilting at windmills somewhere. 

After hearing Quixote mentioned recently in different contexts, I've begun to wonder if Don Quixote, as a symbolic figure, represents more than one idea and if this character might mean different things to different people. Though we probably all usually assume that this literary figure represents one, solid and single idea, I think it is worth asking a question or two to find out if this is actually the case...

  • What does Don Quixote represent to you? 
  • Is there one simple idea that he symbolizes or is he representative of a broader set of ideas? 
  • What one or two word phrase sums up the meaning of this literary character for you?
Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, I don't see how it's possible, when looking at Don Quixote in context of .. well ... the text, to see him as a noble idealist. The dear man was a bit daft. He was obsessed, in his isolation, with reading chivalric literature of old and he got a notion in his head that he could conjure up a return of that chivalric era (for himself, at any rate) by reclaiming a few household odds and ends and an aged plow horse for armor and a steed. This is not noble idealism; this is unstable obsession with a past glory that was fictionalized into unrecognisability (or so one theory goes about mythological beings--Robin Fox Lane posits another). His pursuit of glory led him to thinking a shaving bowl was a "Golden Helmet" and that a joust with a building was a means of attaining "honor" and "glory" for himself in his make believe chivalric world.

What I understand from the character Don Quixote is that we mustn't be fools, now matter how charming the prospects are, and that we must negotiate the real world as it is--that we must see the real world as it is--in order to attain any honor or glory or success or respect or attainment in any regard at all. What else can possibly be understood from a guy who is slightly daft and wears a shaving bowl as a helmet?

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Idealism seems to be a generally agreed upon trait for Quixote. But does this idealism imply a nobility? I would guess that this might be where some people would differ. 

For some, he may be a comic figure enmeshed in his own idealistic fantasies, owning no nobility whatsoever. For others, maybe Quixote is honorably and nobly dedicated to his ideals, regardless of how fantastic they are. 

It's a bit ironic though that he was intended to be a satirical character, mocking the mawkish sentimentalism of contemporary adventure fiction...he is supposed to be a jerk; a lucky one, but a jerk. This is ironic, anyway, if Quixote is seen as representing a noble adherence to a fanstatic set of ideals. 


shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To me Don Quixote represents the idea of a person pursuing a goal that might be foolish or unattainable in eyes of others. It is the idea that we can only act in accordance with our own perceptions and beliefs, and although we may be wrong in the eyes of the world, it's still our own quest that matters to us.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I usually think of Don Quixote as an idealist.  People generally refer to him that way.  If someone is trying to do something deemed impossible, we refer to it as “tilting at windmills” sometimes.  I think that there is an element of humor there, but I think we also appreciate imagination and idealism.

iklan100 | Student

As far as Im concerned, ''Don Quixote'' remains

(a) one of the great true classics of world literature, something that nothing can change, the sheer entertainment value and depth and breadth of this work by Cervantes is unsurpassed.

(b) apart from his 'Quixotic'' activities, Quixote, along with his Sancho, also represent for me a whole cultural landscape and 'attitude', of Hispanic punctilliousness and honour and chivalry that once existed and marked out their society. A certain 'Romanticism' is at work, imbues ''Don Quixote'' very thoroughly.

(c) i guess it's rather trite, but 'quixotic' is what ultimately Don Quixote is and will always be.