Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote is a masterpiece of wit and remains to be relevant even in today’s changing society. Many of the episodes in this long and winding tale focus on issues of Cervantes’ time. In particular, the Episode of the Galley Slaves questions the justice systems role in criminal activity. Cervantes is implying that it is the government’s neglect to individuals in need that forces then into a life of crime. Each prisoner that Don Quixote questions phrases his story in a way that highlights how the government is to blame for the criminals wrongdoings. Whether it be that the judges sent an innocent man to the galleys, or that the government neglected to help an impoverished man, forcing him to rely on thievery.
In each of these stories, the government is to blame. Sancho sets up this idea in the reader by explaining to Don Quixote that “?? Justice does not force or do wrong to such people, but sentences them as a punishment for their crimes.’” (I, XXII, 164). This comment should not be interpreted at face value, since Sancho is a gullible man and is likely to believe what he hears from officials and representatives of the justice system. Don Quixote, on the other hand, hears out each of the prisoners and relies on his own morals to see if these prisoners are, in fact, guilty. Don Quixote reasons that “??not having the justice system on [their] side’” was the “??reason for [their] ruination’”(I,XXII, 169). If the government had taken steps to prevent poverty and help these men and their community, they would not have to result to a life of crime. Don Quixote also begins to target the guards that are holding the prisoners, telling them that they should not be supporting a government that favors them over the prisoners because of their wealth. He goes on to tell the guards that “??Each man must bear his own sins’” (I, XXII, 170). He means that they have no right to sit and haul these men off to their punishment when they have done possibly worse things, and it is the responsibility of the man to reflect upon himself. Instead the government stepped in and punished the men despite their cause being just. The government has abandoned these men, and as a result the men were driven to the crimes they were prosecuted for. The neglect of poverty ridden communities can be seen today within many homeless communities. Instead of helping homeless people and giving them assistance they need, the government often targets these people, placing regulations and criminal laws against homeless people living in certain areas or operations to rid the city of the homeless. Because of this negligence towards the homeless, many result to crime. They steal what they can because they can not get it any other way.
This crime is the result of the government taking action against the homeless, instead of helping them get the basic necessities that they need. This is also seen in poor neighborhoods, where gang violence and shootings are commonplace. These communities need government help, but are instead getting actively targeted. Cervantes sheds light on a governing systems neglect towards impoverished people that subsequently leads them to a life of crime. Cervantes suggests that if the government were to step in and help these people, they would not be criminals.
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