Paralleling Reality: The Storytelling Tapestry of Don Quixote
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The curious phenomenon of storytelling is unique to human beings, and has for millennia been a vital vein for the development of human civilization. Epic poems glorify the deeds of heroes, stories embody religious beliefs, and our world generally becomes more sensible through stories, both factual and imaginative. Miguel Cervantes' character, the story-obsessed Don Quixote, represents our collective fascination with and dependence on stories. In his novel Don Quixote, Cervantes employs the storytelling tradition to make Quixote's worlds--both the world of his imagination and the world of his actual life--more ingenious and sensible. Cervantes' numerous themes seem at first as disconnected and disorganized as Quixote's thinking. However, utilizing the storytelling tradition within his novel, Cervantes coheres his disparate themes into a harmonious whole. This approach mirrors our general storytelling tradition that makes our world--historical and modern, public and private--more sensible, however random some of its events seem. By focusing on Part I of Don Quixote, this article analyzes not only Cervantes' use of stories within stories, but also his layered narrative structure, as well as contemporary story theory, to show how the novel Don Quixote is a microcosm of the storytelling tradition that is crucial to our civilization's development.