Khloe Frank 1 Don Quixote: Redefining Truth in Genre In the fictional yet self-proclaimed “true history” Don

Quixote, Cervantes presents the character of Dorotea as a beautiful and intelligent woman who is fleeing unfortunate circumstances (227). When the priest, the barber, and Cardenio come across Dorotea in the woods, she dictates the “true history” of her life to them (239). Later, when Don Quixote and Sancho Panza have joined them, Dorotea tells the fictional story of Princess Micomicona, which she creates to fulfill her role in Don Quixote‟s mad fantasy of knight errantry. During this story, the priest makes an intriguing comment regarding memory and truth when he says, “misfortunes [. . .] often deprive the afflicted of their memories so that they cannot even remember their own names” (251). Throughout the novel, Cervantes contrasts the genres of history and fiction in order to question the validity of truth, often playfully using the phrase “true history” to describe a work of fiction. The juxtaposition Cervantes creates between Dorotea‟s historical autobiography and her fictional one seems to challenge the concept of simply using genre as a framework for evaluating the legitimacy of truth. Dorotea‟s stories show that both history and fiction reveal some truths but are human constructs, and therefore the truthfulness of each is inherently biased. Histories recount real events but are distorted by the author‟s perception of what occurred, personal objectives, and selection of details. Fictions depict people and events that never existed and may be created entirely by the author; they too can be tainted by the author‟s personal objectives and selection of details, but they often also reveal universal truths. Various incidents throughout Don Quixote show that many people can observe or participate in the same event, yet experience it in completely different ways. Human perception of what occurred at a given moment is created by perspective and memory. Interestingly, this is acknowledged in Dorotea‟s account of her “true history” (251) as the character of Princess

Khloe Frank 2 Micomicona, during which she says, “And if I have gone too far in anything, or have not been as accurate as I should have been, blame what the Señor Licentiate said at the beginning of my tale: continual and extraordinary difficulties take away the memory of the one who suffers them” (254). Memory and perspective of an incident can be affected by mental influences like the adrenaline of trauma, the deliriousness of exhaustion, and the present disposition of a person at the time they experience an event. The person‟s point of focus and physical angle of view are also confounding parameters that create a biased lens for viewing and interpreting the perceived experience. Dorotea‟s susceptibility to these factors challenges the reliability of her history. In addition to being confined by perspective and memory, limitations in the author‟s capacity to process the content of their account also hinders their ability to convey the truth. For example, Cervantes refers to his own account of Don Quixote as the “child of my understanding” (3), showing that the author is already restricted by the boundaries of his own experience and intelligence before he can even begin to present the events he wishes to share with others. These limitations reduce the extent to which an author can convey the whole truth of an event. Personal objectives also influence the way an author presents a history. For Dorotea, the goal of telling her history is to win the sympathy and support of her audience: the priest, the barber, and Cardenio. This is apparent when she says: “I have recounted it in so much detail [. . .] so that you can see how blamelessly I have come from that happy state to the unfortunate one in which I find myself now” (231). In order to accomplish this portrayal, Dorotea presents the maliciousness of Don Fernando‟s character to establish him as the perpetrator of her misfortune. In the introduction of her history, she does this by stating of Don Fernando: “and what he is heir to I do not know other than the treacheries of Vellido and the lies of Galalon” (230). This

Khloe Frank 3 description depicts Don Fernando the way Dorotea wants her audience to perceive him, which is beneficial to Dorotea but necessarily makes her history a biased interpretation of the truth. In order to win sympathy and support from her audience, Dorotea also needs to convince them that she is a virtuous woman and an innocent victim, a person who acted properly under the unfortunate circumstances in which she was trapped. She does this by describing her internal thought process during Don Fernando‟s wooing, recalling, “but my modesty opposed all this, as did the continual advice offered by my parents” (232). This demonstrates cohesion with her parents and the alignment of their wills, constructing Dorotea‟s image as a prudent and dutiful daughter. Later in the account, Dorotea‟s word choice when she describes how she felt “obliged to think of a lie to tell” her parents also provides an explicit explanation of her thinking, thus excusing the immorality required of her actions in running away from home (236). This aspect of human histories makes them inherently biased because only the author can project their internal thought process on their actions. The truth of Dorotea‟s history is also manipulated because, as the construct of a human author, it cannot be told without elements of foreshadowing and analytical commentaries that are only possible in hindsight of the events that transpired. This is evident both when Dorotea introduces Don Fernando, as mentioned above, and when she describes how she felt after Don Fernando took advantage of her. She explains: Then he left, and I do not know if I was sad or happy; I can say that I was confused and pensive and almost beside myself because of this new turn of events; I did not have the heart, or did not think, to reprimand my maid for her treachery at allowing Don Fernando into my bedroom, because I had not yet decided if what had happened to me was good or bad (235). This shows Dorotea‟s ability to reveal the thought-process of her own character, which contrasts with the inability of other characters, especially Don Fernando, to expose their underlying

Khloe Frank 4 motivations. Dorotea‟s mention of needing time to decide if an event is good or bad also demonstrates the importance of reflection in determining whether the lens of a story is good or bad. Because Dorotea has had the opportunity to reflect by the time she tells her story, she has been able to decide which lens to use. Her ability to portray what happened to her through a lens of malice and misfortune makes her history a biased variation of the truth. Dorotea seems to represent herself in a way that will make her audience relate with her and feel a connection that invests them in her well-being. At the beginning of her history, Dorotea says that her parents valued her so highly because she was “the mirror in which they saw their reflection” (230). This statement implies that people value people and stories that represent themselves and their lives, and thus an account is most powerful if the audience relates to it and can empathize with the author. Perhaps this is why Dorotea depicts herself as a hard-working “mistress of [her parents‟] estate” (230). Based on the appearances of the priest, the barber, and Cardenio when they find her, Dorotea probably concludes that they are from the working class. Therefore, in order to gain their empathy, she describes the duties she had on her family‟s farm when she says, “servants were hired and dismissed by me; the accounts of what was planted and harvested passed through my hands, as did the production of the oil and wine presses, the numbers of livestock, large and small, and the beehives” (231). Dorotea‟s presentation of herself as a hard worker seems to contradict the reality of her “alabaster” appearance and inability to run on rocky terrain to escape the priest, the barber, and Cardenio (228). Dorotea may use passive verb tenses in order to dampen the extreme contrast between her autonomy and helplessness and thus make her selfcreated character more believable. This shows how an author can mold the truth to fit their needs by presenting certain details in a manner that will create the character they want to depict, while

Khloe Frank 5 neglecting to mention other details that do not support this image. This selectivity allows the author to create a filtered truth that deviates from the entire reality of the history. Selectivity also comes into play when Dorotea tries to develop a sense of Don Fernando‟s rapacious nature by emphasizing only a certain one of his hobbies in her brief description of him, saying, “He went hunting almost every day; he was an enthusiastic hunter” (236). The issue of selectivity is addressed by the priest as well when he encourages Dorotea to tell the story of Princess Micomicona, saying, “With this reminder your highness can now easily restore to your aggrieved memory everything you wish to recount” (251). This element of choice gives the author of a history the power to censor the complete truth into an incomplete variation. Even if done unintentionally, variation in authors‟ standards of which details are important enough to be included in a story perpetuate deformations of the truth. The priest‟s desire to see “how the clever Dorotea would invent her history” as Princess Micomicona (251) highlights the distinct creative license of an author of fiction, who can go beyond selection and censorship by creating new story elements from scratch as fits their needs. Nevertheless, there is a demand for the invented characters of fiction to have plausible motives and actions in order to achieve a convincing account that engages the audience; this requirement instills the elements of universal human truths into works of fiction. The necessary aspect of authorship in the creation of either a history or a fiction shows that both are, to an extent, distortions of some type of truth. The audience also exerts an effect on the truth of both history and fiction. While presenting the fictional story of Princess Micomicona, Dorotea adjusts the tale to please her target audience, Don Quixote. She frames her account around the structure that he expects of a great chivalric adventure. Dorotea even adapts her style of speech when Don Quixote says, “„I implore thee to tell me, if it doth not cause thee too much pain, what it is that distresseth thee,‟”

Khloe Frank 6 responding, “„I shall be happy to do that [. . .] if it doth not trouble thee to hear sorrows and misfortunes‟” (250). In addition, Dorotea exaggerates Don Quixote‟s fame and esteem, exclaiming, “My good fortune has been so great in finding Don Quixote that I already consider and think of myself as queen and mistress of my entire kingdom, for he, in his courtesy and nobility, has promised me the boon of going with me wherever I may lead” (253). This satisfies the expected conventions of Don Quixote‟s reality and allows him to assume a role in Dorotea‟s performance as Princess Micomicona, thus taking part in shaping the truth of this story. The need for an audience or the public to accept a person‟s performance or account in order for their history and identity to be solidified as valid further reveals the subjective nature of truth. The audience‟s effect on the determination of truth is also apparent when Dorotea assures Don Quixote that he has the mole that Princess Micomicona‟s father prophesized, promising him, “That is sufficient . . . because among friends one must not worry over details” (252). This statement shows that biases for the acceptance of something as true are perpetuated based on the audience‟s relationship to the author of an account. If the author is a friend, then familiarity and trust cause the audience to be less critical in their analysis of the validity of the account before accepting it as true. History and fiction are both subject to these biases, and therefore, both are susceptible to deviation from the truth. During Dorotea‟s autobiographical history, she mentions both Don Fernando and Luscinda, drawing a reaction from Cardenio as he recognizes their names. These references are important for providing a contextual framework within which the audience can imagine the story. Cervantes goes on to say, “Cardenio did nothing more than perspire and remain very still, staring fixedly at her and imagining who she was” (231). This quote demonstrates how, during the oral delivery of a history, details are given in a manner that promotes imagination within the

Khloe Frank 7 minds of the audience. This warping effect as the story passes from person to person allows for changes to take root in the history, created by the audience members. It also reiterates the importance of selection and censorship in history and invention in fiction because only the provided details can contribute to the imagined story. In addition, the narrator‟s word choice and tone can bias these imaginings, which allows the narrator to project their own objectives and perspectives onto the truth of the history. Dorotea creates similar references to establish a framework for the imaginings of her audience during her fictitious account of Princess Micomicona by naming the princess‟s father as “Tinacrio the Mage” and her mother as “Queen Jaramilla” (251). These allusions give validity and a sense of reference to her story. The inclusion of specific names adds a feeling of realness and legitimacy. It also helps Dorotea assume a new identity, much in the way that Don Quixote changed his name and his horse‟s name before becoming a knight errant. There are many parallels between Dorotea‟s two stories. For example, in both her real life and her chivalric fantasy, Dorotea is a character whose parents warn her about someone powerful who wishes to take something from her. In both cases, her protection fails and she needs to run away and find some type of resolution before she can return home. The mirroring of the plots allows the creation of Princess Micomicona as a character who is very similar to the true Dorotea. This demonstrates that both history and fiction can show truth, but perhaps different aspects of it. Princess Micomicona is like an interpretive painting of Dorotea – not as physically accurate as a photograph, but a representation that nevertheless portrays the truth of her nature. Dorotea‟s struggles to accurately remember specific names and places reveal the irrelevance of these elements in creating a valid truth. For example, although Dorotea names the incorrect port cities and even forgets the name of her own character (Princes Micomicona), Don

Khloe Frank 8 Quixote never questions the integrity of her account. This shows that specific facts do not matter to him as much as the universal truths conveyed through the general plot of her story (252-253). Although history is typically viewed as a reliable record of true occurrences and fiction is considered to be a fabrication anchored only in imagination and disloyal to reality, Cervantes challenges this outlook. Dorotea‟s two stories show that histories can create false accounts using a framework of specific people and events as a foundation for misrepresentations, while fiction can depict universal truths demonstrated through people and events that never actually existed. Because fiction cannot be discounted as completely untrue, and history cannot be assumed to be fully true, we cannot use genre as the sole criterion for validating truth.