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The Southern Inheritors of Don Quixote (Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Walker Percy)


Montserrat Ginés

What do Tom Sawyer, Quentin Compson, Miss Lotte Elizabeth Eckhart, and Will Barrett have in common with the seventeenth-century Spanish mock hero Don Quixote? The answer as framed by Montserrat Ginés is a delightfully rich excursion into literary and cultural comparison. Cervantes' knight errant — a prototype for figures throughout world literature — claims in the dreamy, chivalrous realm of the American South a veritable cohort of kindred souls.

Ginés describes this southern expression of the Quixotic ideal as a phenomenon of confluence rather than influence or mere imitation, as being intrinsic to the authors' literary imaginations. Though centuries and continents apart, their society resembled Cervantes' in its patriarchal foundations, high valuation of lineage, economic decline, sense of defeat, and invention of a grand history. Likewise, their shared ironic, tender regard for characters who vainly tilt at windmills served to explain some genuine aspects of their own culture.

Montserrat Ginés is assistant professor of technology and American culture at the Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya in Barcelona and a former visiting scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Publication Date: September 2000