The niece and the housekeeper see that Don Quixote is planning another sally and try to convince him not to leave. The niece tries to tell him that stories about knights errant aren’t true, and that he’s fallen into all sorts of delusions about his own age, strength, and worldly status. Quixote explains that people can both rise and fall in status, and that nowadays families are great because they show “virtue, wealth, and generosity”: wealthy men who do not have these qualities are not great, and poor men who are virtuous and polite are considered great. He tells the niece and housekeeper that the only two ways to achiever “riches and honor” are letters and arms, and since arms are his calling, they must not stand in his way. Just then, Sancho comes to speak to his master.
The niece and the housekeeper here stand for a certain kind of crude realism. We have defined realism not as one single objectively true picture of the world, but as one person’s private vision. The niece and the housekeeper place their faith in the former, narrower definition. They believe that their idea of Quixote is the only true idea – that he is a poor, weak, pathetic old man, and nothing more. But Quixote explains that people are defined not by their circumstances but by their actions.