Don Quixote: Assault and Battery

Don Quixote has committed enough unwarranted assaults by chapter three to land in prison for years.  He is a violent psychopath.  He has ruined the health and perhaps the lives of many innocent men.  Why is this funny, charming, endearing, acceptable?  Because Don Quixote is landed gentry, a nobleman, though penurious.  Nobles get away with mayhem, even today.  We are entertained by their violent misdeeds if they are witty, insouciant, outrageous, literate. As Nietzsche points out in his essay, “The Meaning of ascetic Ideals,” violence had an entirely different meaning in society during previous centuries that we have no machinery for understanding.Thomas Mc Guane borrows from Cervantes the notion that his protagonist is a “gentleman”, a member of a minor industrial aristocracy, read business owner or scion of an industrial family preferably in an early rebellious phase sowing lots of oats and raising hell before settling down to make headlight rims in Toledo.  The understanding is that readers will forgive the violent trespass of the upper crust and find them amusing where they would want to see a middle or lower class person nabbed by the law,  punished  or undone with guilt, if they wanted to read about him at all.  Graydon Carter’s Vanity Fair celebrates a specimen of the misbehaving upper class each month as a regular feature.