Why does everyone know about the windmill scene in Don Quixote?

As we’ve been talking about and reading Don Quixote, I’ve been wondering why the most well known scene from the book is when he tilts at windmills. Even as a kid, not having read any of Don Quixote, I was aware of that scene, and aware of the expression “tilting at windmills” even though I hadn’t read the book. It is clear the windmill scene is the most illustrated part of the book – I wonder why that is when the larger message of the book is concerned with numerous other themes, including the rise of Spain after the Reconquista, as well as the question of whether the book is a novel, satire, or picaresque.

An easy initial answer may be that it is the concrete nature and physical size; after all it is much easier to draw a physical object than say an abstract notion of social commentary. However, the windmills might represent other more abstract ideas within Spanish society – perhaps they represent a cyclical nature of life and history? Seeing as the Spanish had complete the Reconquista, maybe the commentary is that Quixote represents the Spanish nation galloping towards goals or possible achievements, even if they are too grandiose to achieve.

I don’t believe it’s necessary a bad thing that the most well known scene is the windmills. Even Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” is the most well known of Hamlet, that does not mean the rest of the play is somehow lacking in significance or brilliance. Don Quixote is certainly full of other stories and scenes that carry similar weight of importance. My project will actually be about the windmills, and I wonder how my group can make it different from others before us.

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