I was watching “Book of the Damned” again, for like the 20th time, and I started to notice the plaques in the library where Metatron and Cas have their ‘heart-to-heart’/fight.
So the library is definitely NOT organized by the standard Dewey Decimal System or Library of Congress, and I know this because they have a shelf of Hard Science books (Physics & Space) back-to-back with a row about Religion and Ethics. (In DDS religion is 200s while hard science is 500s. In LoC religion/philosophy is B while hard science is Q)
So that first long conversation where Metatron’s like “Who are you?” blah blah.
His row is Science, specifically Physics and Space. And it is shelved both under the wrong lettering for LoC (C instead of Q) AND the wrong numbering (400 instead of 500)
While’s Cas’s side is Religion, specifically Christianity, Buddhism and Ethics. Again doesn’t seem to follow either LoC lettering OR DDS numbering.
This is a MAJOR clue that these signs are definitely meant to be read as textual ‘meta-commentary’ because again, if they had set this up like an actual library, these two topics normally would not be shelved back-to-back, and they would not be filed under those headings.
Also, the religion sign overtly references two parts of their conversation together. Metatron castigates Cas for sticking to the “company line” from Heaven (Christianity) and also compares him to Cain from Kung Fu, which has ties to Buddhist philosophy. ALSO, the lettering kind of suggests Cas and Dean (CS and DE). Not sure about the numbering’s symbolism but maybe somebody else can give some insight. Obviously 101 suggests beginning or introductory level knowledge of something. 421, couldn’t say.
So anyway, the next plaque we see is when Metatron retrieves the demon tablet and he is standing right next to the plaque for “Medieval Romance”
Now this is VERY interesting for a couple of reasons. First, Medieval Romance as a genre is distinguished by heroic journeys or quests undertaken primarily for the sake of romantic love, specifically Courtly Love (in contrast to early epic tales of heroism built around virtuous displays of masculine military heroism - “Read the bible. Angels are warriors of God. I’m a solider”) Courtly Love, let us note, is a kind of love that have a lot of ambivalence about sexual passion and its consummation. As the Wikipedia page explains:
A point of ongoing controversy about courtly love is to what extent it was sexual. All courtly love was erotic to some degree, and not purely platonic—the troubadours speak of the physical beauty of their ladies and the feelings and desires the ladies arouse in them. However, it is unclear what a poet should do: live a life of perpetual desire channeling his energies to higher ends, or physically consummate. Scholars have seen it both ways.
This ambivalence about whether the chivalric/courtly love of the hero is “platonic” or sexual and whether it should be consummated is one of the quintessential debates of the Supernatural fandom re: Dean & Castiel, and is particularly relevant to Cas’s journey. (Again, I’m totally at a loss about BR 389, so further speculation is welcome)
So then, of course, we jump directly to Cas retrieving his grace from the book Don Quixote, which is shelved under the final visible plaque. So one side is ER 389 (number repetition and partial letter repetition of BR 389) and EH 101 (again, number repetition from DE 101). Both are Literature, one side just “Novels” the other side specifically “Comedy, Tragedy, Melodrama” (which is where Don Quixote and Cas’s grace are). Again, there is a lot about the numbering and lettering I’m not totally clear on, so if others have further insights, jump in please.
However, I do feel compelled to point out that Don Quixote was written as a direct ‘parody’ of the classic Medieval/Chivalric romance. Now, as a lot of other fans have pointed out as well, this heavily highlighted reference is clearly packed with meaning for Castiel’s journey and him as a character.
1) The ambivalence of his potential romantic/sexual consummation with Dean, which is a quintessential dilemma of the Medieval/Chivalric romance. But also the fact that Don Quixote is supposed to be a parody of Chivalric romance, meaning (possibly) that this ambivalence deserves mockery, which is what parodies are supposed to do. Arguably, one could say that the Don Quixote reference suggests that the investment in preserving a strictly platonic version of their love is devotion to an ideal that is antiquated and without relevance in the ‘modern world’ (see #3 for more on this)
2) Castiel’s broader anachronistic devotion to the Heaven of old, to a way of life that is ‘outdated’ and dying. This is the central theme of the book, where Don Quixote tries to live out this chivalric romance narrative in a world where that is no longer valued or considered particularly relevant. He has an idealistic attachment to certain ways of life that no longer really exist.
3) The fact that the novel itself is considered to be the bridge between the “classic” and “modern” eras of Western literature. Don Quixote is widely cited as the first “modern” novel. This is the aspect of the reference that is most contradictory, frankly, because the novel is textually about wanting to live in a by-gone era, yet its existence in the Western canon is conceptualized as a movement from the past into the present. The novel itself has a weird symbolism with regard to time, being both about investment in the past, and discreet movement into modernity.
4) Also the fact that the text itself of Don Quixote is highly “inter-textual,” meaning it deliberately and heavily references other pieces of literature, both overtly and implicitly. Cervantes was riffing off a lot of other works and writers quite deliberately, which is another theme of Supernatural as a series, which takes so many of its direct cues from other literary and fictional works (everything from On the Road and The Bible to Constantine and The X-Files).
5) The fact that in Don Quixote there are two chapters solely devoted to the destruction of a library, which obviously is a textual moment in the episode as well. In the novel, other characters are deciding which of Don Quixote’s books to save and which to burn, meaning the reference to that scene is all about deliberately deciding which literary tropes and narratives and genres are worth preserving and which deserve to be lost, forgotten, destroyed. This seems to be more meta about the further construction of SPN as a text, rather than necessarily Castiel himself.
I’m sure there is even way more references/connections than this to be gleaned from the Don Quixote story and also from the plaques in the library that I’ve missed. So please, add on where appropriate fellow fans!