Realism in a Metafiction in Don Quixote, a Novel by Miguel de Cervantes
Don Quixote is one of the most influential works of fiction in the history of
literature. One of the earliest examples of a meta story, Don Quixote exemplifies Mattelart’s nomadic basis for information travel. The story within the story drives the characters and everyone involved loses their sense of reality. Don Quixote represents the vast array of communication methods, while representing a sense of realism in a metafiction.
Don Quixote relates to Mattelart’s nomadic communication in several ways. Quixote’s nomadic journey through Spain relied on the domestication of horses, which allowed for people and ideas to spread much faster through the speed of a horse. The commentary here is that communication is limited in effect and distance by the absence of natural or technological catalysts. Communication could occur at a higher rate across long distances and through the ambitions of whoever was willing to do so with the advent of domesticated animals and technologies like the telegraph.
Don Quixote’s character becomes more interesting when his journey encompasses various aspects of communication talked about in the readings. Quixote embarked on his journey to spread chivalry in the spirit of both the transmission and ritual models. His mission to spread chivalry through transmission, which occurs through his own fantasy knight world that fits James W. Carey’s definition of the ritual view in which “news is not information, but drama.” and “Communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced…” Quixote is the purveyor of his own reality in a literal and figurative sense. Quixote’s mission and reality becomes the reality of the places and people he encounters during his journey. Quixote’s journey is similar to just about any example of exploration and human movement. Humans inhabit nearly every part of the Earth and every human being can be traced back to a common human ancestor on the African continent. The nomadic movement, for various reasons that range from climatological to persecution, or in the Quixote example, a fascination with chivalry, of people and ideas can spread and thrive largely in part by communication.
The fantasy foreshadowed Quixote’s tragic end. His fantasy was in fact his reality, until it no longer was. In his effort to transmit these ideas, he fell into his own drama and ultimately the reality of the situation reared its head. While he failed in his fantastical goal of spreading chivalry, the argument can still be made that his nomadic sense of duty to transmit information succeeded. In the sense of what James W. Carey describes the
ritual view, Quixote’s quest was ultimately just one big dramatic event.