In "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, what do the references to "Wednesday" mean?
Aside from the great answer previously posted, let's also mention a study by Hans Felten, published in 1986 under Actas IX , which offers four different readings of the story "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World," or a ré-écriture intertextuelle genérale cuádruple. In the study, Felten proposes these four readings of the story:
- local color
- revolutionary (also known as poetic)
Let's analyze parts of the mythological and ideological readings, and see how all of this leads us to the meaning of Wednesday and some additional symbols in the story.
- Esteban's link to the god Dionysus (Baccus)
If the story is read from a mythological perspective, the arrival of Esteban to the village would be a match to the birth of the god Dionysus (Baccus) who shares, (also like Moses) a very similar origin: they came from the sea.
Additionally, Esteban's effect on the village is similar to Dionysus's own effect on people. Like the god of wine himself, Esteban's presence makes women feel amorous, and he causes a collective, mind-numbing sensation of admiration that keeps the crowd "hooked." Like Baccus, Esteban also awakens the town's inner emotions, stirs their imagination, and brings out their dreams.
2. The Wednesday detail
In Felten's study, a key mythological similarity between Esteban and Dionysus (Baccus) is that, during the celebration of the deity's entrance in Athens, the third day of the festivities, a Wednesday, was designated to the remembrance of the dead.
Notice that the arrival and burial of Esteban happens on this day of the week, as well. Moreover, Marquez refers to Esteban as a "Wednesday dead." Close attention should be paid to that detail: there is meaning lost in translation.
When read in Spanish, a "muerto de miércoles" would be used to GENERALIZE Esteban as "one of many dead men" connected to this specific day, and no other. Hence, that García Márquez makes mention of a Wednesday as such a day means that this day has a spiritual, memorial or historical connection to death.
Ideological reading: Wednesday, according to Christianity
Aside from the mythological reading, Felten reminds us that the concept of the "third day" is widely embraced in Catholicism and in Christianity, as a whole.
One of the most poignant celebrations in Catholicism is Ash Wednesday. This practice takes its name from the traditional placing of ashes on the heads of parishioners, precisely to remind them of their own mortality.
"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return"
This is done every year, on the Wednesday that marks 7 weeks before Easter Sunday. It is also the start of a period of penitence and sacrifice, known as Lent.
Third day: Resurrection
Let's not forget that the entire doctrine of the Christian faith is based on the belief that Christ resurrected "on the third day" after his crucifixion. This belief is the building block of Christianity. Interestingly, when Esteban is buried at sea,
They let him go without an anchor so that he could come back if he wished and whenever he wished.
This is a clear allusion to death and to resurrection on a "third day," which also solidifies Esteban as a "godlike" or "Christ-like" character. It is also another potential connection of Esteban to the supernatural, to the mythological, and to the ideological origin of the "third day-Wednesday."
Therefore, the allusions to Wednesday, from the Wednesday dead, to the Wednesday drowsiness, and even the Wednesday "cold meat," could be also read from these mythological and ideological points of view, which establish that this particular day is of enormous and magical significance to the event. Everything is Wednesday-nized!
"Wednesday drowsiness," "Wednesday meat," and "Wednesday bodies" all have a common meaning: tiresome. In many communities where the majority of the residents were (and are) fishermen, the men return from their voyages on Thursdays, so by Wednesday, supplies are getting low in the town (and stinky!). Wives and children are getting anxious and bored.
It's like our own notion of "hump day," but hopefully we aren't eating six day old fish, right?
Here are a couple of the passages in which "Wednesday" and its tiresome nature are discussed:
After midnight the whistling of the wind died down and the sea fell into its Wednesday drowsiness.
...the men finally expoled with since when has there ever been such a fuss over a drifting corpse, a drowned nobody, a piece of cold Wednesday meat.