The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

by Gabriel García Márquez

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In "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World," what are two different emotions felt by the women of the town regarding "Esteban"? Why do the women have these feelings?

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In Gabriel Garcia Marquez's story "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World," a mysterious dead man shows up on the beach of a small town. No one in the town recognizes this man and the town is so small that everyone knows everyone else. The man is handsome, strong, and virile; as the woman are cleaning his body for burial, they become "breathless" at his beauty. 

As they prepare clothes to dress him, they fantasize about the drowned man and create imagined stories about how strong, wealthy, and authoritative he would be if he lived in their town. The narrator says the women "secretly compared him to their own men" and "ended up dismissing them deep in their hearts as the weakest, meanest, and most useless creatures on earth." One of the old women, lost in fantasy, says that the drowned man looks like an "Esteban" and all the other women have to agree that he could have no other name.

Later, when the men of the town are forced to drag his body to the burial because Esteban is so large, the woman feel pity for the handsome man. They speculate that he struggled with his overly large body and was ashamed that he could not fit in the doorway when he visited people's houses. They cover his face with a handkerchief so that he will no longer be defenseless, and many of the women start to weep.

Part of the irony of this story is that these women who fantasize about and mourn Esteban do not really know him. He becomes the man they long for - strong, handsome, almost otherworldly - but he is inaccessible because he is dead and a stranger.  

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