Becoming a reader and critic of his own story leads Don Quixote eventually to sanity. Toward the end of the second volume, he slips out of his chivalric role more and more often, even doubting his most fabulous adventure: the Cave of Montesino. When an “enchanted boat” capsizes and gets pulverized in a mill, the bedraggled knight, dripping on the bank, sputters, “Yo no puedo más” (Cervantes Saavedra 752) (“I can’t take it anymore”), betraying a defeatist attitude for the first time. His increased meta-awareness causes our heroic knight to lose faith in his chivalric role, drop the pretense, and return, alas, to sanity.
We are flooded with narrative, drowning in astronomical numbers of stories from paperbacks, movies, newspapers, television, magazines, fan fictions, computer games, and, most of all, the Internet. How can we cope with these stories? What do we do with them?
Meta-awareness is more important more than ever, if we are to understand our storied universe. Yet how can we know what is real with reality TV on every channel? Most of us are smart enough to know that the presence of a camera always causes people to act differently than they would otherwise. Although reality TV is realer than a sit com, we recognize that it is not as real as a news broadcast.