THE HANDSOMEST DROWNED MAN IN THE WORLD BY Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Memories we Lost and Other Stories Study Guide

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"The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" is a short story written by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1968.

Originally written in Spanish, the story was translated into English in 1972, and was published with a collection of Marquez's short stories entitled Leaf Storm and Other Stories

The Latin American writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez presents a true masterpiece "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World", with events occurring in a small fishing village. It's a coastal, cliff-side town, a desert like cape with no flowers, and so little land that the inhabitants have to throw their dead over the cliffs and into the sea rather than bury them in the ground. The inhabitants are a simple group of people, who believe in myths as strongly as what they see with their eyes. It's such a small village, that the all the men combined fit into seven boats, and there are only about twenty houses

Summary of Incidents

Handsomest Drowned Man in the world" opens with a group of children playing on the beach of a small fishing village. In the waves a dark and slinky bulge is approaching. It turns out to be a drowned man, covered in seaweed, stones, and Dead Sea creatures. (p 138).This drowned man has a huge impact on the village, which is changed forever by his arrival.

The men head to neighboring villages to see if the dead man belongs to one of them, while the women clean off the body and prepare it for a funeral. They will make their houses bigger and stronger and better, and dig for springs in their courtyards, and paint their houses bright colors to make Esteban's memory eternal, and plant flowers on their cliffs so that years from now, sailors going by will see the colors and smell the scents and know that there, on those cliffs, is Esteban's village.


Marquez never specifies the time or place of his story, but the action takes place somewhere in Latin America. We know that we're dealing with an isolated village, with no real modern technology, livelihood that its relies on fishing for livelihood.

The scenery changes from start to end. At the story's beginning, the village is simply a desert like cape with no flowers. Later we're told that it's arid and windless. This is a dry, ordinary, boring place to live.

It's so ordinary, in fact, that the drowned man, a truly extraordinary guy' has no place in it. Esteban is incompatible with the village as it first exists. And so with his arrival, Esteban transforms the village into place as extraordinary as he is.


"The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" explores the which human beings overcome personal isolation through collective community. In this story, common beliefs in the fantastic bring together the members of a small fishing village.

The men, women, and children of this community are united by their common desire for self-improvement. Together, they imagine a better future for themselves, a future in which they are as extraordinary as the myths in which they all believe.

The drowning man therefore becomes a true tablet for isolation to the villagers

Men and Masculinity

Masculinity is narrowly defined in "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World " Size, strength, and attractiveness are all synonymous with masculinity in this story. However, non-physical traits like compassion, humility, leadership, and modesty are also associated with the notion of what it means to be a man. A true man is defined on his physical appearance, and their physical muscle.

That, the man would not have drowned in their village, because theirs is a shanty village and therefore unable to accommodate such a handsome gigantic looking man (P. 41 )

The highest ideal of masculinity is shared and admired equally by both men and women in this story.


"The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" explores the transformative effect of one dead man on an entire village. It argues that a truly great person has the power to change others inspire them to be better, to make them want to be extraordinary. It's interesting that, in this story, the villager's transformation originates entirely from within. The dead man is dead, after all'

Which means the villagers are responsible themselves for the transformation.


"The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" means for a person to be great, and what effect such a person can have.

Those women, who went for flowers, to a far village, now that theirs an arid zone, came back with their friend, women from the neighboring villages. On seeing how handsome the drowning man was, they admired him a lot. They went back for more flowers.

Admiration can be directed toward, but at some point, the story teaches us, it turns inward, toward the self, and manifests as a desire for self-betterment.

Techniques and Language Use

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Gabriel Garcia Mrquez presents this work, full of sea imagery, from the title on forward. When the dead body first approaches the shore, the kids playing think he is a whale; then, a ship. He even looks like some sort of funky sea monster: "when his body washed up on the beach, they removed the clumps of seaweed, the jellyfish tentacles, and the remains of fish and flotsam, and only then did they see that it was a drowned man" (p 138). And shortly after, we're told that "he had the smell of the sea about him and only his shape gave one to suppose that it was the corpse of a human being, because the skin was covered with a crust of mud and scales". The women use a sailto make him a shirt.

They suppose that, if he were alive, "he would have had so much authority that he could have drawn fish out of the sea simply by calling their names". And later they imagine "his soft, pink, sea lion hands" as he's "stretched out like a sperm whale" (p l0).

What we see is that the drowned man is an obiect of the comes from it at the start of the story, and he is returned at the the sea, where the fish are blind and the divers die of nostalgia.

Connection between the drowned man and the sea highlights his as an almost supernatural figure of mythology. He doesn't quite belong in this world, our world.

The first thing we hear about the village is that it's made up of twenty-odd wooden houses that had stone courtyards with no flower! on the end of a desert like cape. Now jump to the women'! speculations about the drowned man's abilities: He would have put much work into his land that springs would have burst forth from among the rocks so that he would have been able to plant flowers the cliffs.

Immediately we've got contrast between the world of the villagers and that of the drowned man. His arrival is like a splash of color against their grey landscape. If the village is dry and colorless, the drowned man brings with him the possibility of lively springs and bright flowers.

And sure enough, this possibility is soon realized. As the women prepare for the drowned man's funeral, they go to get flowers from neighboring villages. They return with other women who could not believe what they had been told, and those women went back for more flowers when they saw the dead man, and they brought more and more until there were so many flowers and so many people that it was hard to walk about.

They were going to paint their house fronts gay colors to make Esteban's memory eternal and they were going to break their backs digging for springs among the stones and planting flowers on the cliffs so that in future years at dawn the passengers on great liners would awaken, suffocated by the smell of gardens the high seas.

This is a far cry from the desert like cape we first met at the beginning of the story.

Third Person (Limited Omniscient)

Might be tempting to label this story is told from an omniscient point of view. After all, the narrative gets into the heads of many different villagers at many different times. But realize that all the information get is from the perspective of the villagers we are limited to their we know what they know, and only what they know. At first, the children playing think the drowned man is a ship, and then a whale.

We don't know he's a man until they realize he's a man. The villagers never know where the drowned man came from, so neither do we.

They think he is called Esteban, so for the purposes of the story, he is Esteban.


This is a style in writing which the writer refers to a statement or quotations of incidents to clarify a point

Biblical allusion:

When the men came with the news that the drowned man was not from the neighboring village, the women, with iubilation, chanted in the midst of their tears, "praise the lord, " they sighed "he's ours" this makes us to comprehend their social set up under the religious perspective.


Historical allusion:

The story alludes to Homer's Odyssey — mentions the Sirens "Some sailors who heard the weeping from a distance went off course, and People heard of one who had himself tied to the mainmast, remembering ancient fables about sirens"

Refers to the crying during Esteban's funeral and the crying is like the ring songs of the sirens. Esteban is a "myth"


The Drowned Man (Esteban)

Although he is a stranger-and a dead stranger at that Esteban plays a central role in the villagers' lives. He does not speak, yet his face and his body speaks for him, telling the villagers how sorry he is to be such a bother, large and cumbersome as he is.

They intuit that he is ostentatious, stoic, dignified, kind and considerate, yet authoritative enough to command the fish to jump into his boat when he is fishing. The women of the village find him "speaking" to them in other ways, making them compare their husbands to his splendid size and handsome features.

They are certain that he would be have been embarrassed of his huge size and the inconvenience it caused those around him, and even now, the hassle it's causing the villagers in trying to bury his huge body. The drowned man is given an honorary family and a beautiful funeral ceremony.

The Women

The women respond to Esteban with care, then admiration, then longing, and finally, ownership.

We know more about the women of the village than we do about the men, simply because we spend more time in their perspective. Much of the characterization of the drowned man comes from the women. That is, it isn't the drowned man being characterized as much the women's idea of the drowned man that is described.

They are the ones who see his physical prowess and then imagine his character. They imagine the life he would have led, and the way he might have fit into their village. And it is the women who give to the drowned man the name of Esteban.

Therefore, this makes them to be hard working in the way they dedicate themselves towards seeking flowers, welcoming, observant that the drowned man is Esteban and concerned, with his welfare of getting a proper burial.

The Men

Men are perceived as being concerned and dedicated. They carry the drowned man from the beach to the nearest house. On noticing that he is heavier than any man they've ever seen. They wonder if the water got into his bones, or if maybe he kept growing after he died.

They also recognize how embarrassed the drowned man must have been of his size during his life, and they "shudder" at the thought of "Esteban's sincerity " They have begun to gain focus. At the funeral, the women and the men are aware of the smallness of their village in comparison with the greatness of the drowned man. They vow that, from now on, they will work to make their village worthy of Esteban.


  1. Superstition is rampart in our contemporary society. Discuss with reference from this story.
  2. Identify two instances of similes and show their significance in the story.
  3. Discuss magical realism, with reference to the story above.
  4. How did the villagers come to know of the drowned man?
  5. Construct sentences using the following words from the passage to show their meaning:
    1. Mainmast
    2. Grumbling
    3. Frivolity
    4. Fantasy
    5. Pecking
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