Doré’s Illustrations of Don Quixote

After class, I decided to look at more of Doré’s illustrations of Don Quixote. It turns out that while some of them are fantastic and surrealist, like the two we looked at in class, others are much more realistic. One example is the scene in which Quixote is ‘defeated’ by the windmills.

Unlike Dali’s interpretation of this scene, or the windmills shown on the cover of the Spanish version of the book that we looked at in class, Doré depicts the windmills for exactly what they are and shows Quixote and his horse mid-fall. This artistic choice turns Quixote into a tragic character rather than a comic one. Instead of showing Quixote as a hero bested by a monster like he sees himself, or as one with the windmills like Eko and Dali depict him to show that the monsters are in his mind, this illustration emphasizes the reality of the situation and makes the viewer wince at the real pain that Quixote and his horse will feel as soon as they hit the ground. It shows the power of illustrations to influence a reader’s attitudes toward the words on the page. Whereas the scene can be read as amusing, with this picture it turns into an instance evoking sympathy for the main character of the novel. In showing scenes realistically during Don Quixote’s various moments of defeat, Doré reminds the reader that although the monsters are in his imagination, Quixote is a ‘real’ man who is going through various painful situations, thereby making the reader almost feel bad for laughing at him.

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