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Category Archives: Don Quixote

Some Dads

Happy Father’s Day Sancho, Christian, Gulliver, Mr. Bennett, Fagin, Mr. Brockelhurst, Arthur Dimmesdale, Ahab, Arthur Shelby, Charles Bovary, Marmeladov, Vronsky, Damon Wildeve, Gilbert Osmund, Pap Finn, and Tom Buchanan.

Thanks for not being my dad.

You see, he’s pretty awesome.  And you guys, well, let’s just say that you’re best left where you are:  inside the covers of a book.

Dad Dance

 

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The Fastest 300 Years EVER!

Sancho and the donkey.  Christian.  Yahoos and Houyhnhnms.  Elizabeth and Darcy.  Oliver.   Bertha-in-the-attic.  Hester and Pearl.   Moby Dick.   Uncles and Madams.  Rascal.   Anna-Kitty-Levin-Vronsky-oviches.   The Heath.   Isabel.   Huckleberry.   The Journeys of Henry and Marlowe.   And now Lily, whose outcome, at least for me, is still uncertain.

While paging through the Well-Educated Mind list of fiction books, I realized that Don Quixote was published in 1605 and House of Mirth in 1905.   300 years!  I congratulate myself and you, fellow readers, on plowing through 300 years of literature.   May the crop be plentiful!  I suggest a glass of red wine and some good chocolate to celebrate.

 

 

WEMever the Twain Shall Meet

Despite what Samuel Clemens implies about the usefulness of a well-read education, I’m inclined to believe he followed a curriculum very similar to ours.  Just look at all of the places that there are parallels between The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the rest of our reading list:

Don Quixote

  • Tom mentions reading the first of all novels, and even suggests acting it out.
  • The self-appointed Duke and King reminded me of our self-appointed knight errant.
  • Huck and Jim are on quite a quest, with a fairly foggy future outcome.  I found myself often asking, “Where are they going with this,” just as I did inDQ.
  • Tom sets out in the most complicated fashion to help someone who didn’t need his help.  Let’s just face it, Tom is Don Quixote.

Pilgrim’s Progress

  • Slough.  Not of Despond, but I know I read about one, although I’ve lost the page number.
  • The Grandersons, for all their good Christian living, have a copy of this moral tale on the coffee table.  I don’t remember Bunyan having characters named Family Feud and Kill Thy Neighbor, but maybe I just missed a page.

Gulliver’s Travels

  • Can you say “satire?”

Oliver Twist

  • We haven’t encountered a story about a young boy since Oliver.  As a mother with four of her own, it was nice to get back into familiar territory.
  • Did anyone else think the plot tied up a little too miraculously at the end.? Huck just happens to stumble on the Phelps farm when they are expecting his best friend’s arrival?  Miss Watson just happens to die and free Jim?

Moby Dick

  • Water plays anhe important role of water in the lives of the characters.  The river is practically a character itself.
  • Superstitions abound in both situations.
  • Both authors tackled slavery in an indirect manner.
  • At the very end their is a character named Brother Mapple, which seemed just too close to Father Marple for me.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

  • Slavery
  • Okay, I can be more specific.  Both use male slaves as the moral centers of their works.

Crime and Punishment

  • Huck’s internal struggles between right and wrong, action and inaction, and societal norms and the pull of his heart reminded me of the time we spent inside Raskolnikov’s brain.

The Return of the Native

  • The Mississippi River seems to be the kinder, gentler, yet still important younger cousin of Egdon Heath.

Did I miss any?  Are there any references to P&P, JE, SL, MB, AK, or POAL?

 

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Eustacia Quixote

I’m getting little hints of Don Quixote throughout The Return of the Native.  I think it all started in Book Second, chapter three.  First Eustacia has a strange dream where she is dancing with a man in “silver armor“.  He’s even wearing a helmet and visor.  “Oh!” I thought, “this reminds me of our old friend DQ.”  Then in the very same chapter, the narrator uses a word I will always associate with Don Quixote–sally.

“The fifth sally was in the afternoon; it was fine, and she remained out long, walking to the very top of the valley in which Blooms-End lay.

Miss Vye is trying to, oh, so casually, run into newcomer Clym Yeobright.  All those trips out on the heath were for naught.

That’s okay… I have it on good authority that in just a few pages Eustacia will get to don armor herself.  Maybe even in the form of a cardboard helmet, just like our old errant knight.

PS.  Anyone else feeling a Christian Cantle/Sancho Panza connection?  Maybe I just miss Don Quixote.  Why is it the further away I get from some novels the more I like them?

 

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Don Quixote, The Return of the Native

 

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Christmas Is Coming

Readers are easy to shop for because they’re always happy to get a book.  But what if you want to validate their love of literature without adding to the addiction?  Here’s a list of some unique classic gifts that might appeal to us WEMers.  Feel free print it out and leave it in a conspicuous spot for the shoppers in your life.  Or not.

(If all went well, clicking on the picture should open a new window to the site where the item is available.)

Don Quixote

The question I want answered is do these earrings belong the beautiful Dulcinea of Don Quixote’s dreams, or the brawny girl of Sancho’s acquaintance?  Decide before wearing.

Pilgrim’s Progress

Because a Bunyan vest is better than Bunyan Shoes.

Gulliver’s Travels

The site says that the pages are still readable.  Never mind.  Do not buy this for me.

Pride and Prejudice

This is obviously a doll version of Darcy from the beginning of the novel.  You know, when he was really crochety, um I mean crotchety.

Oliver Twist

You could make up a batch of homemade gruel mix, put it in a mason jar, and add a festive bow, or you could give a Dickinsonian this lovely print of a giant gruel pot.

Jane Eyre

These hues of the moors are named “To the Stars,” “A Strange and Unearthly Thing,” and “Independent Will!” (Exclamation point the artists, not mine.)  Aside from the fact that I can’t imagine Jane Eyre for a moment considering her own appearance long enough to put on a coat of nail polish, they are kind of pretty, in a moody, murky way, of course.

Scarlet Letter

These days bearing a shirt with a scarlet A on it doesn’t denote you as an adulteress, although I think that meaning might be preferable.  So instead of clothing, the Scarlet Letter lover might appreciate this ignominious bracelet.

Moby Dick

The Herman Melville gift options seem endless, from “Call me Ishmael, maybe?” t-shirts to Captain Ahab Baby Swaddlers but this print is the item that really made my jaw drop.  It’s as striking and surprising as the novel itself.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Personally, I would much rather have a piece of Aunt Chloe’s pie.

Madame Bovary

What could be more fitting for Emma than a vanity mirror?

Crime and Punishment

There are hollow book safes available for nearly all of these classics, but this one for C&P has a certain, well, charm?  Although it doesn’t seem big enough to hide an axe.

Anna Karenina

If you can’t buy the gift you can always buy the pattern and knit it yourself this “adorable” and “cute” Anna Tea Cozy.  Also, shouldn’t it really be a samovar cozy?

The Return of the Native

And when in doubt, sending flowers is always a good idea.  Especially heather from the heath.  It’s much more beautiful than a furze faggot, and easier to carry.

Happy shopping and a Merry Christmas!  Oh, and don’t blame me if you get any of these things.

 

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Everyone Needs a Sancho

I have to admit, I’m not the one who came up with this idea, it’s from the critical textbook by A.J. Close,  Landmarks of World Literature: Cervantes’ Don Quixote, but try this on for size:

Queequeg is to Ishmael as Sancho Panza is to Don Quixote.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Don Quixote, Moby-Dick

 

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Classic Themes Revisited

Last September I had a revelation about classic literature themes.  At that point our group had read the first three novels of the WEM list.  I noticed that these books had three themes in common.  I’ve copied part of that post here and added what I’ve found in my reading of Moby-Dick to these notes.  I’m thinking I have thesis material for my DIY degree.

1.  Travel
*In the book Don Quixote, the main character had sallies throughout the countryside.
*In Pilgrim’s Progress Christian and Christiana had journeys to the Celestial City.
*In Gulliver’s Travels–well, it’s in the title.  Traveling is part of the story.  Actually four parts of the story.
*In Moby-Dick Ishmael signs up for a three-year stint on a whaling ship.

2. Giants
*Don Quixote thought he saw giants where windmills were.
*Christian had a terrible encounter with the Giant Despair.  There was also the Giant Maul.
*The people of Lilliput call Lemuel Gulliver a “man-mountain”.  To their six-inch frames, Gulliver is a giant.
In the second part of Gulliver’s Travels, the roles are reversed.  Gulliver is tiny compared to the people of Brobdingnag.
*In chapter 34 of Moby-Dick, the harpoonist named Daggoo is described as having “colossal limbs, making the low cabin framework to shake, as when an African elephant goes passenger in a ship.”  Later the book says, “Not by beef or by bread, are giants made or nourished.”

3. Bodily Functions:  I’ll try to be discreet and follow the lead of my fellow blogger.
*DQ had balsam; and a separate instance with Sancho on his donkey that I wish I could forget.
*In PP, Matthew takes a medicine to help him with his guilt gripe.
*In GT, I read about two instances of No 1 and one instance of No 2.
*My very first footnote in chapter one of Moby-Dick explains this phrase “if you never violate the Pthagorean maxim.”  Here’s the footnote: Pythagoras advised his disciples “to abstain from beans because they are flatulent and partake most of the breath of life.”

All of the novels we’ve read have included some sort of travel.  Elizabeth travels with her aunt and uncle.  Oliver runs away to London.  Jane goes to boarding school, takes a carriage to Thornfield Hall, and travels on foot across the moor.  Hester and Pearl take a boat across the ocean in the epilogue.

Sadly, or not so sadly, none of the other novels involve giants or bodily functions.

I’m imagining what it will be like to do an oral defense of my “thesis”.  Don’t you think the scholars will be impressed?

 

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Don Quixote, Christian, and Ishmael Walk Onto a Boat

About ten months ago Jeannette, Christine, and I were sitting in Panera having our first ever official book outing.  We were at the midway point of Don Quixote, and more than a little perplexed about what exactly we were supposed to be learning from reading the adventures of this crazed knight errant.

Then an “Aha!” moment struck.  Maybe it wasn’t just about DQ.  In fact, maybe we just needed to lay DQ as our foundation, and then later we would be able to come back to him and say, in our best snooty, overly-educated tones, “Ah, yes.  Well, if you compare this author’s approach to that of Cervantes you will plainly see that . . .”It seemed like a long shot, but at the time it was all we had, because as mothers we’d already dealt with our share of potty language, imaginary giants, and cardboard costumes.  We were looking for something more.

Well folks, it’s been happening, have you noticed?  Our authors are talking about each other, referring to other classics, building upon the past, and none more than Melville.  Here’s the end of Chapter 26:

Bear me out in it, thou great democratic God!  who didst not refuse to the swart convict, Bunyan, the pale, poetic pearl; Thou who didst clothe with doubly hammered leaves of finest gold, the stumped and paupered arm of old Cervantes; Thou who didst pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; . . .

Okay, I’ll stop there, because I don’t know anything about Andrew Jackson.  But, Bunyan and Cervantes?  Those are our guys!

It seems that Melville has switched in this chapter from first person narrative by Ishmael, to an omnipotent author who gives us not only backgrounds on multiple characters, but also his own philosophical statements.
Here we get a little peak into Melville’s life as a writer.  This plea to a “democratic God” is for himself, that he may be given the ability to produce a culture shifting story, the likes of Don Quixote or Pilgrim’s Progress. Melville, a mere 30-something American is hoping to create characters that begin as the every-man and end as the men every man remembers.

Then again, maybe this is Ishmael’s voice begging the “Spirit of Equality” to make him, and the motley crew of the Pequod heroes in their own right – to elevate the common with a chivalrous pilgrimage toward the destruction of evil.

I don’t know, it seems my own snooty voice is rather indecisive about this whole mess.  Please weigh in with your own.

 
 

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Ribaldry Dribble

ribaldry –  n.   rude, lewd and vulgar humor

Classical Usage:  Mr. Rochester is having one of his illusive conversations with Jane.  He’s hinting, dropping ambiguous lines of truth into overstated overtures, and making intriguing statements about his own, and her, character.  Those conversations where you first get to know someone, first fall in love with them, and yet know little of their history are so important because each sentence can reveal decades of insight.  This is one of the many nuggets from his past Mr. Rochester gave Jane to examine, “When fate wronged me, I had not he wisdom to remain cool:  I turned desperate; then I degenerated.  Now, when any vicious simpleton excites my disgust by his paltry ribaldry, I cannot flatter myself that I am better than he:  I am forced to confess that he and I are on a level.”

Classically Mad Usage:  Here at the Blog we try to refrain from all forms of ribaldry.  The same cannot be said for Cervantes and Swift.  I’m sure glad we passed that potty-mouthed phase of classic literature, and now I have a word to describe it that sounds much more respectable.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Don Quixote, Gulliver's Travels, Jane Eyre

 

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Renaming Oliver Twist

You’ve finished Oliver Twist?  Great!

But for those of us following the WEM guidelines, we still have an assignment.  Remember when I said that I was required to take notes?  Keep a character list?  Fold down corners?  Look up definitions of words?  All of those things are suggestions by Susan Wise Bauer in her section titled “How to Read a Novel”.  Upon completion of the latest classic, I grab three things: my copy of the novel, my journal, and my copy of WEM.  I then do my best to answer the thoughtful questions Bauer has crafted.  One of the things she asks me to do is to give the novel a new title and subtitle.

“Now give your book a title that mentions the main character, and a subtitle that tells how that character is affected by the book’s main events.” WEM pg. 70

Here’s my attempt at titling Dickens’ sad story:

Oliver Twist: an innocent orphan is abused and manipulated by evil characters and, finally, rescued from his sad life by kind, wealthy people who are related to him.

It’s rather wordy and not very catchy.  But check this out.  According to the WEM synopsis for Oliver Twist, the book “was originally subittled The Parish Boy’s Progress in a satirical play on Bunyan’s title.  Christian is a grown man who can pursue his own destiny, but Oliver Twist is entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers.”

Whoa!  The classic novels are so intertwined!  Remember the Don Quixote references?  And way back when we started Oliver, I felt Dickens was making allusions to  Pilgrim’s Progress .  It makes me wonder what we’ll find in Jane Eyre.

Blog friends, here’s an assignment for you.  I’d love to read your attempts at renaming Oliver Twist in the comments section.

 

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