Study Guide

Don Quixote Gender

By Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Gender

Whether it's ladies dressing like men, men dressing like ladies, men telling women what to do, or women telling men what to do, there are more than a few issues swirling around the theme of gender in Don Quixote. For the most part, the question of gender seems to come up when men are talking about what a good woman should do. No doubt about it, this novel has some creaky ideas about sex and gender. But what is strange is that Cervantes goes to such lengths to write—over and over again—about what makes for a good man and a good woman. It's almost a hang-up, which suggests that Cervantes might have been sensing that the role of women and the relations between the sexes would soon begin to change in the modern world.

Questions About Gender

  1. Overall, do you agree or disagree with the gender roles portrayed in Don Quixote? Why or why not?
  2. When we look at something like gender in an old novel like Don Quixote, do you think we should just let it go and say times were different back then, or is criticizing the book's ideas about gender an important part of overcoming inequality and other issues today? Why?
  3. According to Don Quixote, what makes for a good man? Use specific examples from the text to support your answer.

Chew on This

In Don Quixote, Cervantes is obsessed with showing that men and women should stick to their traditional social roles and keep quiet about it.

Don Quixote ultimately shows us that women should have the right to choose their own husbands, as long as they don't choose people who are below their social class.