While Miguel de Cervantes was writing a tale about a mad knight, scientists were discovering and describing a rational order to the cosmos. Between the publication of the first book of Don Quijote in 1605 and and the second in 1615, Johannes Kepler proposed the first two laws of planetary motion, and Galileo Galilei made telescopic observations that proved the heliocentric model of the solar system proposed by Copernicus sixty years earlier. To these scientists, the universe appeared to be an organized system, operating according to observable, objective laws.
In his article “Chaotic Quijote: Complexity, Nonlinearity and Perspectivism,” Cory A. Reed argues that Cervantes’ metafictional novel anticipates chaos theory: “Like chaos theory itself, Cervantes’ novel challenges the reliability of determinism, objectivity, and literalism that would soon be adopted by the Newtonian and Cartesian models of scientific investigation” (Reed 738). In contrast to the scientists of his day (and all others up until Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg), Cervantes represented reality as contradictory, random and subjective.