Response paper #2
The Spherical Narrator of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote of La Mancha
According to E.M. Forster, there is a certain distinction between flat characters and round characters in a story (Jahn N7.7). Flat characters, also known as static characters, do not develop in the course of the action and remain one-dimensional throughout the story (Jahn N7.7). Round characters, or dynamic characters, are three-dimensional figures that develop throughout a story and are characterized by many properties (Jahn N7.7). In Don Quixote of La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes, the narrator can be seen as a character and an important part of the story as a whole. Not only is the narrator a character, but one may describe the narrator as a round character. Having an overt narrative voice from the start, the narrative does not hold back from voicing opinions into the plot line of the story, such as comparing Don Quixote’s passions to “many other absurdities” (Cervantes 58) and claiming that “those of that [Arab] nation are much inclined to lying” (Cervantes 109). However, like a round, three-dimensional character, the narrator seems to develop through the course of the story. When first introducing Don Quixote, the narrator makes it obvious to the reader that he or she believes that the protagonist has “lost his wits completely” (Cervantes 59) for leading a life of knight-errantry. The narrator even goes so far as to call Don Quixote “a madman” (Cervantes 59) and a “poor gentleman” (Cervantes 59). Regarding Don Quixote’s squire, Sancho Panza, the narrator mentions that he has “very little wit in his pate” (Cervantes 95) but is “an honest fellow” (Cervantes 95), even though the narrator is not sure “if such a term can be applied to one who is poor” (Cervantes 95). From the beginning, the reader can tell how low of an opinion the narrator has of the characters in the story being told. However, in the course of the story, the narrator’s opinion of the two mentioned characters changes. When the history of Don Quixote abruptly stops, it causes the narrator “great annoyance” (Cervantes 106), even though the narrator believed Don Quixote’s undertaking of knight-errantry to be absurd. When the narrator finds the missing part of the story, it is declared by the narrator that if the missing part had not been found, “the world would have remained without the entertainment and pleasure that an attentive reader may now enjoy for almost two hours on end” (Cervantes 107). Not only does the narrator praise the enjoyable story of Don Quixote, but Don Quixote himself is described as the “famous Spaniard” (Cervantes 107) and “the first in our age and in these our calamitous times devoted himself to the toil and exercise of knight-errantry, to redress wrongs, to succor widows, to protect maidens…” (Cervantes 107). The narrator even comes to admit that Sancho Panza “must have been of good stock or at least of Christian lineage” (Cervantes 194). Due to the overtness of the narrative voice, the reader can characterize the narrator of Don Quixote of La Mancha as a round character using the frequently offered opinions throughout the story.
De Cervantes, Miguel. Don Quixote of La Mancha. Trans.Walter Starkie. New York: Signet Classic, 1964. Print.
Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” Poems, Plays, and Prose: A Guide to the Theory of Literary Genres. Cologne: U of Cologne Press,2002. <http://www.uni-koeln.de/~ame02/pppn.htm>