Given the relatively few examples of true liberty from real life, some of the best expressions of liberty have often come from novels. These literary works not only captivate our minds but also inspire us to envision a future where the individual, rather than the government and its agents, holds the reins of human action.
The plot of Don Quixote, a Spanish novel written in 1605, contains some of the best representations of this vision. Considered a founding work of modern Western literature, the novel’s message that individuals can be right while society is wrong was considered radical for its day.
Don Quixote is a timeless tale of heroism and the relentless struggle against injustice. Its influence extends far beyond the pages of the book, permeating Western culture and leaving an indomitable legacy. Indeed, the narrative of a valiant hero standing up against a world fraught with inequity finds its roots in the epic adventures of Don Quixote.
The narrative unfolds through the lens of its protagonist, Don Quixote, an aging nobleman who becomes captivated by tales of chivalry and embarks on a quest to revive the noble virtues of knighthood. Armed with idealism and a vivid imagination, Don Quixote dons a makeshift suit of armor and sets out on his adventures, accompanied by his loyal squire, Sancho Panza. His unwavering belief in the power of individual action and his willingness to confront injustice, even when it appears in the guise of windmills mistaken for giants, make him a symbol of boundless courage and determination.
As Don Quixote encounters various characters and situations, the novel explores themes of honor, idealism, and the clash between reality and imagination. Cervantes weaves a narrative that blurs the lines between illusion and reality, challenging readers to question the nature of truth and perception. Through its multifaceted characters and intricate plot, Don Quixote offers a rich tapestry of insights into the complexities of the human spirit.
In the Learn Liberty video below, Universidad Francisco Marroquin Professor Eric Graf explains how Don Quixote is fundamentally about freedom. Don Quixote is a liberator who frees slaves convicted of petty crimes in a criminal justice system exploited by the government to achieve its ends — and he also objects to the state’s right to tax him.
But these specific examples are just part of the broader themes of individualism that define the book and the struggle for liberty itself.
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