Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter XX



Continuing their thirsty traveling through the night, Sancho and Don Quixote hear the cheering sounds of a waterfall nearby, but they are filled with horror when they hear accompanying thuds of heavy, regular blows. Sancho begs his master to investigate the strange noises only in the daylight, but Don Quixote is brave and firm, charging his squire to tighten Rosinante's girth in readiness for the attack. Sancho, however, ties the horse's back legs together so that he leaps forward at the spur but cannot move further. "Heaven is on my side," declares Sancho, "So you must have patience until it is light." At dawn, Sancho quietly unties Rosinante's legs, and they ride closer to the noise. Don Quixote is "ready to drop from his horse with shame and confusion" for the heavy thuds are merely the noises of six fulling-mill hammers pounding out the cloth. Sancho laughs so hard that Don Quixote strikes him in anger. "See here, Mr. Jester," he says, "If these, instead of fulling hammers had been some perilous adventure, have I not, think you, shown the courage required for the attempt and achievement." Sancho begs pardon and swears to "always stand in awe of you and honor you as my Lord and Master."


This chapter not only describes again how the imaginative weapons of Don Quixote overcome obstacles, but how the relationship between master and squire develops. Sancho, anxious to imitate his master, thinks that tying Rosinante's legs and then saying it is the will of Providence to keep them in one place are typical Don Quixote rationalizations. At this point, however, Sancho is merely an imitative clown, transforming reality by tricks, and not by the force of faith. Until he becomes a bit "quixotized," he will still have a muddled notion of the difference between truth and illusion.

Don Quixote, on the other hand, uses no tricks at all. Understanding everything with his imagination, he is capable of overcoming any danger because the appearance of the obstacle is inconsequential. Fulling-mills and giants are conquered by efforts of the imagination, by a strong-willed attack of ideals and ideas. Sancho, fearful and anxious in the dark, huddles close to his visionary master because he cannot see the danger, but he is ready to mock the hero when there is nothing to fear. In other words, Sancho and the rest of common men depend on men of ideas when they are threatened with something their senses cannot grasp. The heroes and leaders of men are always those who impose their will on reality, who bend events according to the idea. Reality, to Don Quixote, is therefore an internal quality, and he renounces this strength of perspective only when at the point of death.