In this article, I offer a reading of an episode in part II, chapter 44, of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote. The tearing of the protagonist’s stocking during his sojourn in the palace of the duke and duchess, I argue, produces an instance of realism as an affirmation of the outside world that signals the defeat of the chivalric hero and compromises the satirical enterprise in the palace. I end by comparing Cervantes’s use of the torn stocking to produce realism with two similar scenes, one in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and the other in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. Despite their different aesthetic propositions, these three novels share the use of seemingly irrelevant circumstances, such as the tearing of a stocking, to ground the objectives of certain fantastic projects in the realm of the normative. This comparison illustrates the importance of looking not only at how texts are classified but also at how specific literary worlds are constructed when accounting for the relationship among early realist novels.

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