Don Quixote

Don Quixote

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Don Quixote Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As he rides away from the inn, Don Quixote decides to return home to gather money and supplies and to find himself a squire. Suddenly he hears moaning from the woods nearby, and when he follows the sound he finds a fifteen-year-old boy being flogged by a big farmer. He rides up immediately and challenges the farmer to a duel. The farmer explains that the boy is a shepherd in his employ, and that he is being punished for his carelessness. Don Quixote demands that the farmer pay the boy all the wages owed, on pain of death; the farmer promises to pay the boy later. At this point, the boy objects that as soon as Quixote is out of sight the farmer will beat him more than ever, but Quixote assures him that the farmer will honor his oath.
Quixote is delighted to come upon a person in need, because helping such people is the knight’s vocation. The world has shown him that knights are indeed still necessary. But he does not stop to investigate whether or not the boy deserves the beating he’s receiving. It seems that in the world of the chivalry books, only knights can mete out just punishment: when a farmer punishes, he is simply injuring someone weaker than he is.
Themes
Literature, Realism, and Idealism Theme Icon
Intention and Consequence Theme Icon
As soon as Don Quixote rides away, the farmer ties the boy to the tree and beats him more brutally than before. Meanwhile, Don Quixote rides on in a happy and self-satisfied mood. He encounters a group of merchants, whom he takes for errant knights, and resolves to act as a knight would act in one of his books. He raises his lance and demands that they acknowledge that Dulcinea is the most beautiful lady in the world. The confused merchants ask to see this Dulcinea, but Quixote insists that they must acknowledge her beauty from afar. The merchant jokes that even if the lady were deformed and strange-looking, he would admit what Quixote wants just to please him, but the joke enrages Quixote so much that he charges at the man. But Rocinante trips and flings Quixote off, and one of the travellers beats him badly. The travellers leave the battered knight lying helplessly on the ground.
These two episodes both demonstrate the disconnect between intention and consequence in Quixote’s actions. Quixote intends to help the young shepherd, to save him from a beating and to ensure that he receives his wages. He thinks that the farmer’s promise is enough, since promises are hardly ever broken in the world of chivalry books. But Quixote’s intervention only does the boy harm. In the second episode, Quixote wants to glorify his beloved, in the end he only injures an innocent man. The gap between intention and consequence, an extension of Quixote’s madness, corresponds to failures of realism in chivalric novels.
Themes
Literature, Realism, and Idealism Theme Icon
Madness and Sanity Theme Icon
Intention and Consequence Theme Icon