In class we discussed flat and round characters again. In “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative,” Manfred Jahn explains that a flat character is one that “does not develop in the course of the action and can often be reduced to a type or even a caricature” (N7.7). A round character, on the other hand, is a “three-dimensional figure characterized by many, often conflicting, properties. A round character tends to develop in the course of the action and is not reducible to a type” (N7.7) In Don Quixote, by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote believes he is a knight and, therefore, thinks it is “desirable and necessary, both for the increase of his honor and for the common good, to become a knight errant, and to travel about the world with his armour and his arms and his horse in search of adventures” (27).
This sort of behavior seems to imply that Don Quixote can be reduced to a character. His weirdness (a firm belief in knight errantry) is exaggerated for comic relief. However, at times in the narrative, Don Quixote speaks as if he is a round character. When discussing the idea that people should not give “letters the preference over arms,” the narrator explains that “Don Quixote was developing his arguments in such an orderly and lucid way that for the time being none of those listening to him could believe he was a madman” (355). The narrator is impressed by Don Quixote and admits that the characters have begun to doubt Quixote’s madness. This is the problem with the flat and round character distinctions. It is difficult to qualify any character as only flat or round. A character’s emotions may be fickle and shallow in one sentence and, then, express a deep emotion that forces the reader to reevaluate them in another. Therefore, it becomes an oversimplification of a character to qualify them as flat or round.