…For as the book progresses, so does the world of make believe. The barber and the curate, who set out to cure Don Quixote’s follies, end by becoming participants in it, actors in his imaginary history. Sancho Panza starts talking his master’s language. The Duke and Duchess, who receive the pair, adjust their whole dukedom to his follies, so that Don Quixote is no longer any madder than his surroundings, and Sancho, with perfect gravity, gives laws to his imaginary island.
Well might a bystander cry out, on seeing our hero, “The Devil take thee for Don Quixote of La Mancha! Thou art a madman; and wert thou so in private,’twere less evil; but thy property is to make all that converse or treat with thee madmen and coxcombs!” Finally, by an exquisite piece of , Don Quixote himself becomes the champion of truth against falsehood. For in 1614, nine years after its publication, the success of Cervantes’s first part had prompted a rival novelist to publish a continuation of the story. Thus the genuine first part and the false second part of the story become additional elements in its last phase, complicating still further the delicious and now inextricable confusion of reality and make-believe.
Such, very briefly, is the character of this incomparable work. It can be described as a “schizophrenic” book because of the duality between heroism and disillusion, make-believe and reality, which so completely pervades it. It is this duality which makes the book, sustaining and animating it throughout its great length- indeed, so animating it that Dr,. Johnson could describe it as the only book which one wishes were longer. And it does so because the duality is genuine. Cervantes himself, we feel, is schizophrenic; he is one both sides at once: on the side of Don Quixote and on the side of Sancho Panza. The duality, in fact, is in his own mind, and- since he is so completely “out of time”- in the society in which he lived, late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Spain.