The Process of Perception: Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Woolf’s Lily Briscoe

The process of understanding includes two steps: the acknowledgment of sensory information and the interpretation of sensory details. In order for the fact to be perceived, or, in other words, for something to be viewed precisely, sensory details must be acknowledged or identified correctly and then translated faithfully according to that acknowledgment. A faithful analysis is one that does not negate the acknowledgment of sensory details. Fact is not perceived if an unreliable recognition is analyzed consistently. An analysis may take a number of types, nevertheless, and reality still be perceived, if the recognition is accurate and if the interpretation does not negate that acknowledgment.

In Part One, Chapter Eighteen of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, when the title character participates in battle with a flock of sheep, his understanding of the sheep is at first affected by expectation. In this case the mode of perception is sight; vision is the sensory info that Don Quixote need to acknowledge and analyze. Don Quixote and his squire Sancho at first can not see the sheep since of the “clouds of dust they [the sheep] raised, which obscured and blinded their [Don Quixote’s and Sancho’s] vision” (Cervantes 135). Before he can actually perceive the approaching crowds, Don Quixote anticipates them to be enemy armies prepared to clash in battle, because, as the narrator discusses, “every hour and every minute his mind was constantly filled with those fights, magics, adventures, miracles, enjoys, and challenges which are related in books of chivalry” (Cervantes 135). Simply put, Don Quixote’s madness, caused by literature, triggers him to anticipate these approaching crowds to be armies.

Yet, even after he can see the crowds of sheep, he still thinks them to be armies. As the flocks grow nearer, Sancho screams to Don Quixote, who swears to beat one of the “armies,” “Turn back, Don Quixote, for I swear to God, sir, they are rams and ewes you are going to attack. Reverse!” (Cervantes 137). Don Quixote, nevertheless, disregards his squire’s caution and attacks the sheep as if they were an enemy army. At this point in the experience, Don Quixote recognizes the sheep improperly as warriors, and interprets them as such. The very first phase of his perception is inaccurate he does not perceive the truth–, but the second phase is accurate. He translates his vision consistently according to his acknowledgment, however because the first phase of understanding is unreliable, he does not view reality.

The knight’s perception modifications, nevertheless, after the battle, when Sancho informs him, when again, “Didn’t I inform you, Don Quixote, sir, … to turn back, for they were not armies you were going to attack, but flocks of sheep?” (Cervantes 138). It is here that Don Quixote acknowledges the fact, and he acknowledges that the hordes were, indeed, sheep. He translates his recognition unfaithfully, though, because he goes on to declare that “an enchanter … turned the hostile squadrons into flocks of sheep” (Cervantes 139). Such an analysis negates the correct acknowledgment, and is for that reason unfaithful. In this method, Don Quixote’s understanding modifications from inaccurate acknowledgment and faithful interpretation to precise acknowledgment and unfaithful analysis. He customizes his perception to accommodate Sancho’s objection.

Another circumstances that shows Don Quixote’s misperception of fact is the popular experience with the windmills. On this event, unlike the fight with the sheep, in which a dust cloud initially impairs his vision, Don Quixote sees and views the windmills from the start, yet he still can not view the fact. He says, “Examine there, good friend Sancho Panza, where more than thirty monstrous giants appear” (Cervantes 68). Don Quixote’s command to “look,” and his insistence that the giants “appear” must imply that he can see them. He acknowledges the sight of the windmills erroneously as giants, and translates them faithfully as such. Just like the sheep adventure, when, after the battle, Sancho informs Don Quixote that his perception was incorrect, Don Quixote’s perception modifications from unreliable recognition and faithful interpretation to precise recognition and unfaithful analysis. Sancho states, “Didn’t I tell your worship to look what you were doing, for they were just windmills?” (Cervantes 69). Once once again, Don Quixote claims that an enchanter, the “sage Friston … turned those giants into windmills” (Cervantes 69).

The character Lily Briscoe in Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse likewise perceives elements of the world differently from other characters. Like Don Quixote, the mode of Lily’s understanding is vision. Unlike Don Quixote, whose recognition of the fact modifications in the sheep scene, Lily’s recognition of the fact that, for instance, Mrs. Ramsay is Mrs. Ramsay, remains constant. Likewise unlike Don Quixote, whose analysis takes the forms of words, as in his prolonged enumeration of the “knights” in the approaching “armies,” and of action, as in his attack of the sheep, Lily’s analysis takes the types of thought and of representation in paint. Lily attempts, with little success, to view, and, therefore to understand Mrs. Ramsay in all her intricacy as a lady and as a person. She uses language of “seeing” or of “vision” in order to express her frustration at such a challenging task: “Fifty pairs of eyes were insufficient to get round that a person female, she thought” (Woolf 198). The interpretation for such efforts at perceiving the wholeness of people takes the type of thought. Lily’s primary kind of analysis, however, is represented in her painting.

The scene Lily paints from the Ramsay’s summer house in the Hebrides includes Mrs. Ramsay reading to James. Lily recognizes the kind of Mrs. Ramsay to be, in fact, Mrs. Ramsay. She skews her analysis in paint by representing Mrs. Ramsay and James as a purple triangle. It can not be said, as it might for Don Quixote, that since her interpretation represents Mrs. Ramsay in a different way than she sees them, that Lily does not perceive the reality. There is an essential difference in these characters’ interpretations. Don Quixote’s belief, for example, that an enchanter has altered armies into sheep belies his recognition. Although he recognizes the reality that the hordes appear as sheep, his interpretation that they are, in truth, warriors negates his recognition. Lily’s creative analysis of Mrs. Ramsay as a triangle does not negate her acknowledgment of Mrs. Ramsay as herself. Lily does not believe that Mrs. Ramsay and James are in fact a purple triangle. She tells Mr. Bankes that “she had actually made no attempt at likeness” (Woolf 52) in portraying Mrs. Ramsay and James as a triangular shape.

Lily’s self-consciousness of interpretation, her intentional modification of understanding, marks another important difference between herself and Don Quixote: that Lily actively modifies her vision in order to represent reality, whereas Don Quixote customizes his vision in order to represent dream. Although Cervantes does not offer the reader as substantial a view of the minds of characters as Woolf does, he does write that “everything that he [Don Quixote] stated, thought, or did was affected by his fantasies” (Cervantes 134). As Don Quixote is specifying the knights in the approaching hordes, even prior to he can view them, the narrator describes that he is “carried away by his oddly deluded creativity” (Cervantes 136). In this way, Don Quixote’s perception, and the modification of that understanding in response to Sancho’s objections, for example is in assistance of a dream, a delusion. He refuses to view reality.

Lily, on the other hand, is permanently looking for viewing truth. This is, possibly, the most important difference in between her perception of the world and Don Quixote’s. Her goal in altering the structure of her image, or in representing figures abstractly is not to support a fantasy or a misconception, but, rather, to represent her “vision” or “picture.” As she tries to describe her painting to Mr. Bankes on page 53, she is described as “ending up being once more under the power of that vision which she had actually seen clearly when and must now grope for among hedges and homes and moms and kids her image” (Woolf). Seeing this picture, this vision, is challenging for Lily; she must strain in order to see the fact of it. As she struggles to see it, “always something … thrust through, snubbed her, waked her, required and got in the end an effort of attention, so that the vision needs to be continuously remade” (Woolf 181). Like Don Quixote, Lily changes her understanding. Unlike Don Quixote, the modifications Lily makes allow her to better view the truth. She modifies her analysis of the world, which she recognizes properly, according to her sense of her altering vision. She tells Mr. Bankes thatIt was a concern, she remembered, how to connect this mass on the right-hand man with that left wing. She might do it by bringing the line of the branch across so; or break the vacancy in the foreground by an item (James possibly) so. However the danger was that by doing that the unity of the entire might be broken.Woolf p. 53

Hence, her interpretation (represented by the painting) should be modified in order to support her vision. These modifications in analysis never ever negate her acknowledgment of truth, nevertheless, and, hence, her perception constantly supports fact. She enacts changes in visual structure, preferring unity, balance of left and right, and balance of foreground and background. On the last page of the novel, when she sees “it clear for a second,” she paints a single line in the center of the painting (Woolf 209). The unique goes on to say “It was done; it was completed. Yes, she believed, … I have had my vision” (Woolf 209). With that single line, Lily completes her painting and is finally able to view the reality of her vision. Her long struggle to see and represent her vision is finished.

Tracking the recognition and analysis of Don Quixote is rather more difficult than tracking Lily’s, however, because Cervantes offers us extremely couple of looks into Don Quixote’s mind. The development of Lily’s painting, as she struggles to “see” her vision and after that to finish the painting occurs almost solely on a psychological plane. The process of understanding and its relation to fact depend on the thought procedures of precise acknowledgment and faithful analysis. These are mental processes. The reader sees really little of Don Quixote’s psychology, and should rather count on his words and actions, in result, the residue and outcome of psychological processes, in order to track his changes in understanding. In Woolf, by contrast, the reader sees into Lily’s ideas, and subsequently can see the actual moment of acknowledgment and the moment of interpretation.

Both characters, in the end, perceive some kind of reality. Lily views it through active pursuit of her vision and, finally, through conclusion of her painting. Don Quixote perceives reality in the end when his insanity abates and the goal of his perception is no longer to support a fantasy. In either case, nevertheless, the perception of truth leads the character to a better understanding of the world, and marks the completion of a journey. Don Quixote perceives reality and ends his errantry. Lily views reality and finishes her painting. The process of understanding is the journey. Fact is the end.

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