Mental illness throughout history has been a huge problem. Whether it be mania or borderline personality disorder, insanity has always been very prominent. In the sarcastic tale, Don Quixote, insanity is one of the largest causes and events in the book. Don Quixote (the main character) exemplifies insanity in his actions, thoughts, and words. Mental illness in this time was intriguing and remarkable. Don showed many types of illnesses like mania, and BPD.
Don Quixote was a man in the village of La Mancha in Spain. When the story began his name was Alonso Quijano. He was a very wealthy man who lived with his housekeeper and his niece. Alonso was not a young man, he was almost fifty. The village thought of Alonso as a crazy man. He spent the majority of his time reading books of chivalry and knight-erranty. Alonso spent his night lying awake trying to comprehend the confusing and precious books he read. Alonso often would try to talk over his literary troubles with the village curate and barber, who happened to be his best friends and the villages representations. As said in the story about Alonso, “our gentleman became so immersed in his reading that … his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind”.
His first real showcase of a mental illness was soon after his “brain dried up”. He got the fantastic idea to drop every normal thing he did and become a knight. He made himself excuses of armor, all the while telling himself that if he went of honorable quests and conquered them, he would be the greatest man and knight to ever live! These thoughts started to exemplify real distress in Alonso and a huge break from reality. This is where he starting to show his manic behavior.
After making all the right armor for his quests, Alonso needed a horse, and lady, and cool names for all of them including himself. He went and got an old bag of bones horse that he saw as a sparkling steed and named him Rocinante. Next came his own name, Don Quixote de La Mancha sounded just about right and became Alonso’s new name. Lastly he had to have a Queen, because what knight didn’t have a lady to honor and partake in quests for. Don picked out a girl that lived close by, her name was Aldonza Lorenzo. Though the two had never met, he named her Dulcinea del Toboso.
Dulcinea throughout the story became one of Don’s biggest mental breaks. He fantasized over her and always exclaimed that she was his. He fought useless battles and lost many of them just to honor Dulcinea, a girl that didn’t know he existed. Dulcinea became a symbolic character that the audience never actually met. She represented Don Quixote’s insanity and his fixation with fantasy. It was a quest that Don would never overcome.
The book drug on for many chapters and Don’s mental state only got worse. As he went on missions with his squire Sancho Panza, his illusions ranged from seeing a whore house as a castle of ladies, to fighting windmills that he saw as giants. The madness wouldn’t have stopped if the Knight of the White Moon hadn’t come. This was a man from Don’s village that promised to send Quixote back to his village for a year without the practice of knight-erranty if he won the battle. White Moon did just that and Don’s sadly went back to the village. The audience believed that his mental state could only get better with the deletion of knighthood, and boy were they wrong. Quixote took the sentence in strides and instead of healing decided to practice another book of code, shepherding. Not wanting to disturb his mental state any more the curate and barber cheered him on and even said they would join in! This was a huge slap in the face to the audience. When all was thought of as lost Don fell sick and retired to his bed. He slept for hours when he jolted up and exclaimed his was sane again all thanks to God showing him the way. He said, “my mind is now clear… I see through all the nonsense”. After this he died of a tiresome soul.
His final break of sanity really wrapped up the story leaving the audience to start questions what types of insanity Don really showed. It was concluded that Don exemplified two major illness: mania, and borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Starting with the biggest illness in the story, mania, Don showed many symptoms through his actions in the tale. Mania symptoms include, “mood changes, impaired judgement, and the development of psychosis”. The audience can pick all three of these symptoms out in the story. Through his quickly aggressive state in his battles and just when he is walking around “protecting” is stuff, you see his quick mood changes. When seeing windmills as giants and guards as kidnapping thieves, ones sees his impaired judgement and the development of psychosis. Interesting enough mania was also of the biggest illness in real life when Don Quixote was written, this being the 16th and 17th century. Many people were checked into mental hospitals for cases much less than Don exhibited. One being a man in Spain who, “showed signs of exaggerated anxiety… and the immoderate intake of coffee”. The medical field not being super advanced noted that, “people with psychological disorders were seen as dangerous so they were locked up”. Also back in the day of the book, “in the eyes of the law, mentally ill people lacked the capacity to reason”.The fact that Don didn’t get locked up was an interesting writing technique for Cervantes. This really showed the sarcasm in the writing and overall book.
Lastly, Don showed one more very prominent illness, borderline personality disorder (BPD). BPD most relevant symptom to Quixote was his, “display of uncertainty about how they see themselves and their role in the world”. Don Quixote became a knight so he could gain honor that he didn’t think he already had. Don didn’t feel he was enough as he was therefore starting his mental issues. This first realization starting the ball rolling in the book and ended up being Don’s reason for dying. After breaking from insanity on his dearth bed he relayed the same things except this time cursing them. He thought of himself as foolish then perished.
In conclusion, the book Don Quixote was a long tale of a man who showed insanity. Mental illness was a huge problem during the time the book was written, giving the author brilliant ways to construct Don’s messed up mind. In the sarcastic tale, Don Quixote , insanity is one of the largest causes of events in the story. Don Quixote exemplifies insanity through his actions, thoughts, and words. His showed up his mania, and BPD disorders in the most interesting ways. All this making a successful book that showed the audience insanity in the book and in the real world of when it was written.