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What does quixotic mean?

October 8, 2007

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Windmills at La Mancha

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The word quixotic derives from the last name of Don Quixote, the main character of a 1605 Spanish novel, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha. I read parts of this novel in college literature classes and in my study abroad in Peru. (When it was first published, copies sent to the New World ended up in Peru.) I would like to read it again because, as a college student, I didn’t appreciate that it was such a landmark novel. I think I just skimmed it and tried to get by without a lot of effort. According to wikipedia, this novel contains the first European literary mentions of menopause, an eating disorder, and psychological self-analysis. I’ve also read (but not seen for myself) that it is the first book shown burned in the 1966 movie Fahrenheit 451.

Don Quixote is caught up in idealistic chivalry. His quest isn’t based in reality. The girl he is pining for doesn’t even exist. He is an impulsive and extravagant knight-errant. The word quixotic therefore evokes the image of Don Quixote’s hilarious fight against the windmills he mistakes for giants. Acting quixotically means that many will view you as a fool. Because I realized that I often see the world this way, I chose the name Fighting Windmills for my blog.

The music of Ani DiFranco reveals her tendency to romanticize daily life, although she is much more eloquent than I. When I try to apply the lyrics from her songs to my personal relationships, I find them dangerously quixotic. They lead me to make impulsive decisions and get me into trouble when I am on a quest to conquer someones friendship. I also have to be careful how much influence I allow her to have on my politics.

I am trying to find a balance where I can enjoy her lyrics but still find my own truths and take responsibility for my behavior. I want to continue to think quixotically because I like that way of thinking, but I am aware that I need to take care not to cause harm to others or foolishly set myself up to be harmed.

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7 Comments
  1. April 4, 2008 8:28 pm

    I loved the name of your blog even before I read the description. Now I think it’s even cooler 🙂

  2. May 27, 2008 2:30 am

    Though I have been reading your blog for months, I did not know your exact reasoning for choosing the title. The many moments of striking brilliance, insane humor, and impeccable deconstructive human analysis in Cervante’s epic endeared me to this work, and I understand why this was your influence. When you are taken for the errant fool, the expectations are lowered, and every once in a while, you are afforded a well-deserved apology.

  3. May 27, 2008 10:22 am

    *high five* You got it, Johnny, you got it exactly.

  4. July 7, 2008 9:26 am

    I KNEW it would have to do with Don Quixote! ~although I didn’t know enough to figure it out fully…. (((((HUGS))))) sandi~Lovin’ this, ‘cuz I can tend to be a strange bird!

  5. July 7, 2008 12:36 pm

    Thanks, Sandi. I enjoy when other people understand the reference. It will be fun to get to know each other.

  6. October 9, 2008 8:49 am

    can I be quixotic with you??? I can be such an impulsive idealist at times…

  7. October 10, 2008 8:21 am

    Sure Goldie, you can join me in battle whenever you like.

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