Don Quijote was a tall, skinny wanna-be who found himself morally obligated to involve himself in other peoples business for the sole purpose of acting as a proper knight errant would. Although he believes that his battles help solve situations (though the results is usually the opposite), what it comes down to is that he wants to be famous, to be in love with his woman, to be accomplished, recognized, and adored. Therefore, Don Quijotes motives are self-serving, and not by-the-book as a knight errant should be. As much for the sake of his own greater honor as for his duty to the nation, he decided to turn himself into a knight errant… (p. 15) The thing was, this was how knights generally were – a selfish man looking for trouble to fix so people will respect him and give him things, and women will sleep with him. The reader sympathizes with Don Quijote, though, because his insanity prevents him from seeing his reality as fake and inappropriate to actual societal needs.
In chapter eight, we find our wanna-be hero attempting to beat up windmills, or so the reader is led to think. But what if it was all a ploy? He may have really believed that these windmills were giants and wanted to attack them, but purpose had he for doing so? They did not speak to him or threaten him, until Don Quijote started in with them. Flee not, oh cowards and dastardly creatures, for he who attacks you is a knight alone and unaccompanied. (p.44) It was after Don Quijotes threatening words that the windmills arms began to move in the wind. What proper knight errant would beat up someone, claim the victory, and then of course, claim its spoils? I guess thats just it – knights did that. But how do we know our hero wasnt just pretending to be crazy to get away with this?
In chapter sixteen, Don Quijote and his sidekick, Sancho, arrive at an inn, all beat up from their battles, and from falling down a lot. The hero thinks the inn is a castle, and deems that they are owed a warm and comfortable place to sleep because he is the Great Don Quijote de La Mancha, braving battles against all evil for the purpose of saving the kingdom. Sancho and a girl who works at the inn, Maritones, have a knight errant conversation, in which he realizes he needs to explain the point behind what he and Don Quijote do. A knight errant can see himself, as fast as one, two, three, either beaten with clubs or turned into an emperor. Today, he can be the most wretched creature in the world, and the neediest, and tomorrow he can have two or three kingships to give his squire. (p. 87) The poor man really thinks that Don Quijote will someday be rich and famous and hook him up. Even if this became the case, as he is really secretly out for himself, for his own recognition, whos to say that Sancho would get anything out of this, except for orders to relay his newfound fame to Dulcinea?
In chapter twenty-two, Don Quijote, wanted so much to be idolized and adored, stopped a galley slave train, to see what he might do. At first, the questions and answers seem harmless, but one thing really stands out. The hero asked about a pimp, and after hearing why the man is in trouble, replied, For being a go-between isnt so easy; its a job for tactful people, and extremely important in any well ordered republic, nor should it be exercised by any but well born persons. (p. 129) He saw this as similar to his own situation, felt pity on the man, and this became one catalyst in the inappropriate decision to free the slaves. Of course, we learn the true purpose at the end of the tale: to notify Lady Dulcinea del Toboso about Don Quijotes good deed of the day. …present yourselves before Lady Dulcinea del Toboso and inform her that her knight, the Knight with the Sad Face, sent you there with his greetings, in order that you might tell her, blow by blow, everything which took place during this famous adventure… (p. 133) How selfish. But thats the point; knights were selfish underneath their false exteriors.
A little later on, we encounter Don Quijote trying to patiently listen to a story told by a man found in the mountainous woods, Cardenio. He acted selfishly however, and foolishly aggravated Cardenio by interrupting a story he was being told in order to interject about knight errant books. Cardenio proceeded to flip out and beat up Don Quijote and Sancho. The reader finds later, that had Don Quijote been able to keep quiet long enough, he might have actually been able to help the young man. But if that had been the case, then the point of the book might be thrown off course.
Finally, to sum up my point, Don Quijote acted selfishly like he though he should, doing good deeds for fame. In his own words, Don Quijote explains, My idea is to become a lunatic for no reason at all, and to ask my lady, seeing what I do without cause, what she imagines I might do if I really had one? (p. 151)