Don Quixote as Hero?

How much of DQ’s timeless appeal has to do with his

self-appointment as hero?

Hopes and Possessions

Hopes and Possessions

I have recently been considering Don Quixote in his role as “Hero”.  How much of his timeless appeal has to do with his self-appointment as hero?

Nobody asked him to “Save” them or to help them at all. The only ones to agree to his offers of assistance are doing it out of curiosity; to appease him, and to see what this odd person will do if given the chance to do his thing. And of course DQ bungles it every time. A mob of devils are merely a herd of sheep, the nobles, squires and princesses are an inn keeper and his wife and guests and of course monsters are only windmills. And DQ and Sancho get their asses kicked.

In the book, DQ takes on the attitudes and demeanor of a hero. His need to portray himself a romantic knight-errant is too great to be supported by the meager facts of his existence. What he sees as threats are delusions and misinterpretations. His response is rarely appropriate to these perceived threats, usually an outsized pouring of self-righteous anger and violence. His weapons are a joke and his armor and defenses are non-existent.

That is how I depicted DQ, setting his eyes looking in different directions to show his split personality, and giving his horse Rocinante an affable indifference to his circumstances.

Green eyes

Green Portrait (detail)

Welcoming Menace

Welcoming Menace (detail, To Have Lived A Madman and To Have Died Sane)

 

With his lance at the ready and his shield in place he assumes the stance of hero, but as we know, he’s not good at it. He is anything but threatening and doesn’t even seem able to protect himself, with his arms wide open in a gesture of welcome as opposed to attack mode.

Yet there is something about heroes in all this that I want to put my finger on. (That’s usually how it is with art: first comes the artwork, after which the meanings reveal themselves.) DQ is not a hero to anyone but himself, no matter how much he has convinced himself that that is who he is: self-definition is not the same as self-actualization. The results of his heroic acts show the farce that he is but he can’t see it.

Don Quixote, "Our Invincible Knight"

“Our Invincible Knight” oil on canvas, 40″ x 30″, 2013

 

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