I’ve always thought it would be so nice if Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quijote could meet Charlotte Bronte’s (Currer Bell’s) Jane Eyre. Bronte’s character was, virtually entirely, a rewritten version of the Cinderella story. Instead of a wicked stepmother and three wicked ugly stepsisters, she had a wicked aunt-in-law and three wicked ugly cousins. The unfair treatment she got was by way of the deliberate abuse they chose to heap upon her. By way of a variety of entirely mundane misadventures and hardships, she eventually married Mr. Edward Rochester, and they lived quite happily ever after. Cervantes’ Don, however, fell prey to all sorts of delusional fantasies that led to his trouble. That’s in the nature of the picaresque novel His Dulcinea of El Tobozo, in reality the homely peasant girl Aldonza Lorenzo, was as much of a distortion as everyone and everything else he dealt with. It’s quite a lopsided tale of courtly love. If the Don and Jane were ever to be properly introuduced, it would lead, I should suppose, to quite a colorful episode. The Don, quite aware of the fact that he is at all times obligated to treat a lady with absolute respect, would make every possible effort to be quite the gentleman in Jane’s company. Although she most certainly isn’t very comely of appearance, he may never notice. It’s quite possible that he may think she’s as lovely as he considered his Dulcinea. The pair would be driven to distraction because of all the distinctions between Counter-Reformation Spain and Victorian England. There would be significant religious differences. He’s quite the staunchly orthodox Catholic and she’s a demure Quaker lady. He may give her a bit of a speech pointing out to her all the problems with the errors of the Protestant Reformation. If he gets his hands upon Mrs. Reed and the Reed cousins there could be quiet a lot of big trouble. He’d have to be a bit tactful with Mrs. Reed, Eliza and Georgianna, but he’d really have to put Master John into his place. Sancho Panza would have to spend a lot of time keeping him in check. In Jane’s mundane world, where propriety is an absolute necessity at all times, the Don simply doesn’t fit in. She, however, politely accepts all his idiosyncracies, knowing quite well that he’s ultimately a gentleman. He could tell her all his tall tales and keep her petting Rozinante and Dapple. Jane understands what it’s like to be misunderstood and mistreated. At least hers is quite a practical approach to life. She could give him some pointers about how to deal with things in a more tactful and profitable manner. She would marvel at his and Sancho’s total lack of social skills. I should suppose that throughout their first meeting, the Rochesters and their new Spaniard friends would be quite taken aback at each other in seemingly insurmountable ways. After a while, however, both sides would be quite capable of accepting the fact that all could ultimately work out. The Spaniards would add color and excitement to the relationship, and their English friends, Mr. and Mrs. Rochester, could provide the voice of civility and etiquette. Such an extreme lack of compatibility could even be enjoyable.
If I could have my choice of three works of fiction in which I should be able to participate, I should most certainly have to pick the late 1960’s movie, “Hello Dolly”, with Walter Matthau, Barbra Streisand and Michael Crawford, as one of them. Ever since I was a kid in St. Gabriel’s, where the De La Salle Christian Brothers, in the glee club, kept us singing show tunes, I’ve always enjoyed this classic musical. It’s about the adventures of Dolly Levi, a middle aged matchmaking widow in turn of the twentieth century New York CIty. Besides Dolly’s romance with Horace Vandergelder, there are several other dalliances that transpire within the story. The last time I watched it I was quite especially favorably impressed with all the costumes and music. The distinctive suits, hats, dresses and parasols, were perfect. I’ve always really wanted to see what that kind of spectacle must be like in person. The clothing, speech and customs of that era, as depicted in the movie, are enough to catch anyone’s attention. Another story in which I should really like to partake is “Don Quijote (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quijote of La Mancha)”, the picaresque novel by Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra. It’s from Spain’s Golden Age in the early seventeenth century. In the book, a middle aged hidalgo, Alonso Quijano, after having read too many chivalric novels, thereby distorting his perception of reality, sets out to reinstate the era of chivalry. Throughout the story he and his sidekick Sancho Panza, a simple farmer, get into a series of misadventures stemming from the benighted Don’s inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Aldonza Lorenzo, a local homely farm girl, is his lady love. She’s somewhat reminiscent of Petrarch’s Laura and Dante’s Beatrice. The tale is filled with all sorts of insights into theology, philosophy, literature and history. I should really like to get involved in it because of all the offbeat adventures of the Don and Sancho and because of all the things I could learn about life during one of mankind’s most interesting historical epochs. I should get quite a kick out of watching our protagonist constantly confusing the most ordinary everyday people, places and occurrences with profoundly significant realities. The story is a major lesson about reality and mankind’s relationship to his world and surroundings. Another story I should like to visit would be Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass”. I’ve always really enjoyed the tales of life in a distorted world where animals, plants and inanimate objects are personified, logic is incessantly convoluted and imagination reigns supreme at all times. I could have a chance to meet the Mad Hatter, the Walrus, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Cheshire Cat and all the other characters that make Wonderland such a distinctive environment. Life in Wonderland shares with Don Quijote the fact that nothing ever matches up to what anyone would normally expect based on an even somewhat legitimate standard of logical consistency.