The Absurd of Idealism

A more careful reading of the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes shows us that unlike Sancho Panza, who is obsessed with the idea of enrichment, Don Quixote is obsessed with the idea that the order of the world should be grounde on: social justice and elimination of the oppression.

don q 1 “I came to the world to remove the injustice”, always says Don Quixote, for who the true purpose of life is not his own fame, but the benefits that his actions may cause.

And, through so many deprivation, suffering and humiliation, he continues to fight and suffer for the others, to distroy evil and to triumph truth and righteousness.

The character of Don Quixote is built up of a sums of moral values, showing all the time generosity, courage, renunciation, soul purity, disinterest, stoicism, tendency to action and, in general, the ideal to achieve himself in good and beautiful. In this regard, Don Quixote is one of the most beautiful characters that the Renaissance literature had created.

On the other hand, the hero misses these nobile ideals, as shown in the episode of the battle against the windmills, as well as from the other subsequent episodes, mainly for three reasons: he doesn’t fit his deeds into true necessities, doesn’t know how to pursue his intentions according to his real possibilities and the ideals he wants to implement don’t correspond to the concrete circumstances.

But Cervantes emphasizes the hero’s ensemble of moral virtues because in his conception what serves the moral and social progress of mankind is precisely these virtues. Cervantes’s humanist cultural attitude manifests itself particularly in those hero’s speeches, whose eloquence then proceeds with a perfect clarity of logic and purity of expresion.


In the novel is also presented the general decline of Spain, a decline that is severely judged. The leaders of Spain, about whom Sancho says “he doesn’t give a damn about them”, just think of stealing and spending the wealth of the country. Instead of any virtues they display their arrogance, forgetting that the true nobility is based on virtue; the noble rank is inherited, but virtue is conquered.

Neither the other stancheon of the Spanish state, the Church, is forgiven. The priests of that time were said to be small in their hearts, that they only think about food and urge the rich to be hunks.

Finally, Cervantes’s true democratism is in the attention he pays to the characters of the people, very numoerous and varied, objectively presented, defective, but in who beautiful moral attributes predominate.

from Cristina Ionescu, Renasterea in Spania


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A Paradoxical Friend


I have never understood the paradoxes of my friend Teofil. He judges all in reverse; in every case where we are accustomed to giving an explanation that we have prepared, without having to worry about being original, Teofil finds an entirely unusual explanation. He’s extravagant in everything, but in matters of morality he’s even absurd.

This so positive science was completely overthrown by Teofil. What is good for everyone, for Teofil is bad and vice versa.

For example, night before I saw him doing something that put me in a big confusion. When I expressed this feeling, Teofil exposed a ridiculous theory about the duty of society to the virtues and vices of man. To see his paradoxical vision…

He argues that virtues are shilds and weapons for human struggle against society, and vices are his weak and vulnerable parts. Thus, my friend concludes, with his twisted spirit, that society doesn’t have to fight man’s vices or encourage his virtues. On the contrary, because man’s virtues are detrimental to the authority that society must exert on man, the vices are useful to society.

What justice is in this theory that society must support its enemies and fight its supporters ?

I confess that after listening to such paradoxes I stop talking, but I must tell you the story that made Teofil expose his strange theory.

I was on the street with my friend when I was back from the office. When we crossed the Mogosoaia Bridge we met two beggars who were there every day. I usually give 50 cents to the beggar on the left; he’s a good man and doesn’t go to bars. The one on the right, the crippled man, a former mechanic whose a saw cut off his hand, is a debauchee. I first gave money to both of them, but since I found out that the crippled man was a depraved one who spent his money on drinks and Royal cigarettes, I only gave money to the bagger on the left.

When I met Teofil, we went the same way. Close to the corner where the beggars were, I took the money out of my pocket and gave them to my good wretch. Teofil simply told me “Forgive !”, grabbed my hand and led me to the beggar on the right side and gave him 50 cents.

That revolted me.

“What ?”, I said. “You gladly give 50 cets to a drunkard, a vicious man, and you don’t give anything to a miserable good man ?”

“Of course.”

“Do you know what he’s gonna do with your money ?”

“I know ! He will drink one liter of wine and buy three Royal cigarettes.”

“So. And you give him money ?”

“That’s why I give them to him. It’s my social duty to encourage vices.”

“So then…”

“So”, my friend replied before leaving. “I follow strictly social morality. What is the most important thing in social morality ? Charity ! But for man, isn’t charity also a vice ? I think it’s good for me to be charitable and that I follow the moral Christian two times when I give the alms and encourage the vices of others.”

“But you know it’s not like taht, Teofil… excuse me…”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t stay anymore, no matter how much I would have to encourage you to discuss moral philosophy… I’m waiting for dinner. Goodbye.”

It is impossible to persuade Teofil.

I. L. Caragiale, Paradoxal

Published in “Epoca” in 1896

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