20 June 2011
The Importance of Point of View
Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes is an intricate story in which the narration plays a crucial part in the frame of the story. As we have learned from our analysis of Manfred Jahn’s “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative,” the narration of the story is very important. After a reading of Jahn’s depiction of point of view, we as readers have learned that focalization is the way a story is presented. Jahn describes external focalization as when “the primary candidate for a text’s prespectival orientation is the narrator” (Jahn N3.2.1) and internal focalization is when information from a text is restricted to a character’s field of perception (N3.2.1). In chapter nine of Don Quixote, readers are introduced to Cide Hamete Benengeli, a fictional character that is instrumental in how readers understand Don Quixote. We are also introduced to Cervantes, the character who is in search for the truth behind Don Quixote. This is where we get his point of view:
“All these thoughts left me feeling puzzled and eager for exact and authentic knowledge of the complete life and works of our famous Spaniard Don Quixote de la Mancha, the light and mirror of the chivalry of that land, and the first man in our times, in these calamitous times of ours, to devote himself to the toils and exercise of the knight-errantry, and to the redressing of wrongs , the succouring of windows and the protecting of maidens who used to ride about, up hill and down dale, with their whips and their palfreys, carrying their maidenhead with them; for unless raped by some blackguard, or by some peasant with his hatchet and his iron skullcap, or by some monstrous giant, there were maidens in those times gone by who, at the age of eighty and not having slept a single night under a roof, went to their graves with their maidenheads as intact as the mothers who’d borne them.” (Cervantes 74)
This block quote showcases the importance of focalization in the novel. Cervantes wants to write of Don Quixote’s tale through the reality of his doings not through some false chivalry. In this passage, the character of Cervantes is given an internal focalization. From this character, the writer himself is separated. When Cervantes is turned into a character in his own book, he is able to look at Don Quixote through a different lense. In the quote above, the character of Cervantes wants to write of Quixote in all its truthfulness. He can criticize other characters and or other events because he is a character within the story so readers would respect him. If it were through the words of a writer saying things about others readers, we might not be as interested. Then we are introduced to Cide Hamete Benengeli, an historian and writer of Don Quixote. Cervantes writes that he found the manuscript of Cide Hamete Benengeli at a shop. In Cide Hamete Benengeli version of Don Quixote, he is written about as a knight who isn’t anything like Quixote.This was very delibrate. He isn’t given the same recognition as Cervantes thinks he deserves. Cervantes feels Cide Hamete Benengeli version is a poor representation of Quixote. Cervantes as a narrator is the external focalizer because he creates the story and within his story he creates a character of Cervantes. The narration goes back and forth between the external and internal view of the story, very similar to the short story “She Lived in A Story” by Guillermo Samperio. In Samperio’s work, he creates a character to carry out actions that he can’t do himself. When he was a character he was able to look at Ofeila differently. The same goes for Cervantes. He is criticizing the works of other writers on the translation of Don Quixote and he is showing readers that literature is up to interpretation and will be dissected by everyone.
De Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel. The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha. Trans. John Rutherford. 1605. Columbus, MT: Penguin, 2003. Print.
Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” Poems, Plays, and
Samperio, Guillermo. “She Lived in a Story.” New Writing from Mexico. Ed. Reginald Gibbons. Evanston, IL: TriQuarterly Books, Northwestern University: 1992. Print.