Why is Don Quixote considered heroic if all he is doing is "Tilting at windmills"?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Don Quixote is a lovable character. He is a hero in his own mind. His ideas on chivalry are honorable ideas. He is a hopeless romantic who learns the hard way that not everyone is as romantic as he is. Still, he stands firm in his chivalric passion. Don Quixote does every act in the name of his lady love--Dulcinea.

Don Quixote is a true hero in every sense of the word. He is only trying to make the world a better place. He is trying to revive a practice that has subsided. The knight-errant is a lovely, romantic idea. Although Don Quixote is fighting windmills and herds of sheep, he does it all in the name of heroism and chivalry:

Alonso Quixano is a fifty-year-old man who reads of chivalric tales until he begins to neglect his domestic affairs. Eventually he decides that for his own honor and that of the state, he must revive the profession of the knight-errant. He therefore dons his armor and becomes Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha and Knight of the Rueful Figure. Not happy with the modern world, he takes it upon himself to bring back the golden age of heroism and chivalry.

No doubt, Don Quixote is a nuisance to some, but to those who understand his heart, he is a true hero. He is the true chivalric hero. He has some of his wits about him. He rides and fights for Dulcinea. This tale is a touching romance for Quixote is in love with Dulcinea:

To be a full knight requires a ladylove. Don Quixote chooses Aldonza Lorenzo, a local woman, and renames her Dulcinea. She does not have a major role in the novel, but remains the ideal of womanhood in Don Quixote's mind. He resolves to do good deeds in her honor.

The reader only wishes that she knew who Don Quixote is. Truly, the reader is pulling for Quixote to win his ultimate lady love. Caught up in a fantasy world, Don Quixote is no average character. He is a knight-errant. He has his horse and squire. He rides the countryside, hoping to revive heroism and chivalry. After all, that is what a true gentleman would do.