The Quest Narrative: 'Don Quixote' and 'The Wasteland'
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The quest narrative:
How it functions in Don Quixote and "The Wasteland" "A quest is a journey in the course of which one advances spiritually and mentally, as well as physically travelling miles. The quester leaves the familiar for the unknown. The nature of the goal may not be clear at first and may only become fully apparent at the end of the quest" (Irwin 2011). In Don Quixote, a middle-aged man, driven half-mad by reading tales of medieval knights, attempts to recreate the world of chivalry in contemporary Spain. Quixote sets out on a quest, determined to right wrongs, even if the 'wrongs' are evil beings disguised as windmills. Quixote is on a quest to find true honor in a world where such values are no longer relevant and save his society from moral turpitude. Similarly, the protagonist of T.S. Eliot's modernist epic "The Wasteland" is on a quest to find something that no longer exists: a sense of meaning in life. Both Cervantes' prose and Eliot's poem are fragmented and episodic, reflecting the difficulties of the heroic quest to find a cohesive end and 'answer' to the questions the protagonists are seeking. Likewise, both Don Quixote and "The Wasteland" are profoundly nostalgic and backward-looking works in tone, while still embracing modern attitudes and narrative structures. The purpose of the quest is unclear to the protagonist, but it is fundamentally one which seeks to restore an ancient rather than a new order. Quixote wishes to restore an ancient