Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
It is easy, in a cynical fashion, to make fun of the villagers in this little story, which Gabriel García Márquez wrote shortly after finishing his great masterpiece, Cien anios de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1970). One Hundred Years of Solitude chronicles the rise and decline of Macondo, a mythical city representing Latin American society in the period of independence. In some ways, the fishing village in this story is a stripped-down Macondo: The villagers are even more backward, provincial, ignorant, and gullible than the inhabitants of Macondo. Their village is the center of the universe, so instead of moving to a more promising location, they resolve to “break their backs” to turn a rocky promontory into a rose garden. They are inspired by a waterlogged corpse and led by emotional women. For all they know, the drowned man was a scoundrel, and there is no guarantee that their resolutions will ever lead to anything, that the rose garden will become a reality. If One Hundred Years of Solitude mirrors the history of Latin America’s big hopes and bigger failures, is this story a boiled-down version of how the historical cycle begins?
The answer is no. “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” is not so much a repetition of One Hundred Years of Solitude as a coda with a counterpoint theme. The story takes an even more unpromising situation than the one in Macondo and proposes a...
(The entire section is 573 words.)
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