Confirmation Bias

I wasn’t able to read that much of Don Quixote today thanks to all the work I have to do for the KBM 8.3 upgrade at work, but what I did get through was wonderful. Cervantes definitely earned his place as one of the Great Western Writers. The older English and heavier 18th Century style can be a bit dense at times, but it’s well worth the effort to get through. At its best, it makes for wonderful reading.

In Chapter 1, the depth of Don Quixote’s delusion is revealed along with the unreliable nature of the narrator. Don Quixote is described as “witless” in many different ways, and the narrator tells us that Don Quixote holds his fantasy world as truer than reality. The thing is, it seems Don Quixote can see through the veil of delusion, he just doesn’t seem to want to. He seems to be suffering from sever confirmation bias: using any scrap of evidence to support the veracity of his fantasy world while ignoring a significant amount of facts, including everyone constantly laughing at him, that it’s not real. The pasteboard half-helmet and skinny horse turned noble steed as well as the false name for himself and pretty much anyone he meets who he needs to be a noble to support the mythology he has created, show Don Quixote’s world as a costume universe of his own making. Don Quixote essentially has made himself his own god, basing a new universe on the framework of chivalristic novels.

Chapter 2 show Don Quixote bent on glory, talking about how his fame will be preserved in various ways. This grandiose vision he has for his existence may be a byproduct of the fact that this gentleman of leisure (despite his somewhat modest fortunes) finds La Mancha really boring and has retreated into the paper world of knights and dragons. Don Quixote has remarkable transformative powers that create wondrous things out of the most mundane objects (a dumpy inn becomes a castle, wenches become fair damsels, a crooked innkeeper a high nobleman from Castilla, moldy bread and terrible stew into a royal feast). We also see that Don Quixote uses props like his papier mache armor and helmet tied with ribbons as talismans that fasten him more tightly in his fantasy land.

Chapter 3 shows the innkeeper as cretin, trying to use the “full and unimpeachable” evidence in books about chivalry to swindle Don Quixote out of a few reals. Don Quixote proves that he is willing to go to extreme lengths to protect his imagined knighthood, “smot[ing]” two young men who move his armor when attempting to get water from a trough. He also uses titles such as “knight” or “dona” to draw others into his imagined reality. This has the added effect of probably being a bit uplifting to the commonfolk he turns into aristocrats.

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