The author tells us that he almost omitted this chapter, since the events in it “approached the limits of the imaginable.” But, says the author, the truth of events survives as a thin film on top of them, no matter how absurd they may be. In the morning, Sancho leaves to find Dulcinea in order to arrange a discreet meeting. As soon as he leaves the forest, he sits down under a tree and begins thinking about his absurd predicament: how can he find a princess of unearthly beauty in El Toboso, especially if he’s never seen her? Then he remembers that his master often looks at one thing and sees something else entirely, and decides to try and convince Quixote that some peasant girl is Dulcinea, and that an enchanter has transformed her into a peasant girl in Quixote’s eyes.
There are several important moments in this section. First of all, the author proposes an idea about the nature of truth that coheres closely to the idea we’ve been extracting from Quixote’s conversations and pronouncements. The truth of events is not contained within the events themselves – it lies on top of them, somehow, like a dilution, the oil extracted from a plant. The truth of a story is not defined by its plausibility, but by its effect on someone’s imagination.
Sancho sits by the tree for another few hours; as soon as he sees three peasant girls riding toward him on donkeys, he hurries back to his master and tells him that the beautiful Dulcinea and her two maids are riding toward them as they speak. They ride out of the wood, but where Sancho pretends to see beautiful ladies on fine horses Quixote only sees peasant girls on donkeys. Sancho rides toward the girls, kneels by the one in the center, and addresses her in the most flowery and respectful tones. She rudely tells him to get out of the way. Quixote, who can only see a very plain-looking peasant girl, tells her that an enchanter must have distorted her image in his eye, but affirms his love for her. The girl mocks his sentimentality and tries to push through; her donkey throws her off, but she springs back on athletically and the three girls ride away. Sancho continues to describe Dulcinea’s heavenly appearance, and Don Quixote is miserable that the evil enchanter has deprived him of the experience of her beauty.
We have said that Dulcinea is Quixote’s blind spot: she is entirely imaginary, unspoiled by any real-world correspondence. Sancho has listened to his master’s speeches so faithfully that for him, too, she has become purely imaginary – even though at first she was a very corporeal peasant girl named Aldonza Lorenzo. Now, Dulcinea has separated completely from Aldonza. Sancho does not even try to find her: she no longer bears any relation to Dulcinea. Because Dulcinea is Quixote’s sanctum, it is especially tragic that he is forced to see her as a harsh peasant girl, unmistakably bodily with her animal strength and bad smell.