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Deconstructionist Criticism of “The Episode of the Fight with the Wineskins” in Don Quixote

Updated on May 7, 2012


Deconstruction is about finding disunity and problems inherent within a text. The episode of the fight with the wineskins has a basic underlying flaw that destroys the very pretext of the book - it reveals that Don Quixote does understand the difference between the truth he perceives and the truth that others see.

The situation that Don Quixote has found himself in is one that most “rational” people would not believe in. A woman, Dorotea, has been convinced to act the part of Princess Micomicona, displaced by her kingdom due to the cruelty of a giant. Don Quixote, ever the valiant knight errant, has offered to assist her and destroy this giant for her. Obviously, there is no giant. Giants don’t exist for the rational person. Don Quixote, however, talks with Princess Micomicona and tells her that he will come and slay the giant for her. How can he accomplish this? If he truly lived in the world of his fantasy, he would have no concern about it, and would merely wait for the giant to appear and slay it. Don Quixote, however, is grounded in the real world, no matter how much he wishes it could be otherwise. This is shown when Don Quixote, while sleep-fighting with the giant, appears to not have been fully asleep after all. I have heard that people do amazing things while sleepwalking, but the thought of someone managing to get a sword unsheathed, wrap a blanket around their arm, and then be able to hit and cut open wineskins, all while fully asleep, is extremely hard for me to fathom. Ask any child at a birthday party with a piñata how easy it is to hit it while blindfolded, and you’ll hear that it can be almost impossible. Regardless of how insane Don Quixote was thought to be, this situation could not have occurred.

The only witnesses to the attack on the giant are Don Quixote and Sancho. Sancho removes any of his own reliability when he tells the innkeeper that, “All I know…is that if I don’t find that head, my luck will turn and my countship will dissolve away like salt in water” (307). Sancho’s vested interest in Don Quixote’s fantasy world is apparent. Sancho further shows his awareness of the reality of the situation when he tells Don Quixote everything he will see, now that the battle is over, “if you can see them for what they are” (322). Don Quixote at first tries to argue the cause of the enchanter, but finally is forced to give in, admitting that, “I do not wish anyone to say that I am lying” (323). He then continues, and while he does not admit to the farce of the Princess, he admits to the farce of the giant, telling the “lady” that, “I shall send the head of your enemy rolling on the ground and place on yours its rightful crown” (324). Don Quixote must then be admitting that the giant he killed does not exist, as otherwise what enemy would he need to remove for her?

Finally, on page 325, Don Quixote determines that they will say no more about the wineskins as Sancho has shown no sign of letting up speaking the truth. The truth is very disconcerting to Don Quixote, who has tried to live his life as fiction. He cannot force the issue because he knows the truth. The words he speaks belie the words he wishes to speak - he fails to convince either himself or his audience that he is mad at this point. The truth is that Don Quixote knows the same truth as his audience, but he wishes that he did not.

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