How does the description of the drowned man change over the course of the story?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

'The Handsomest Drowned Man In The World' is a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The story starts out with children playing on the beach of a small fishing village. A slinky bulge seems to be floating towards them, and the children initially think it is a whale. Eventually, they realize that it is a drowned man. Being children, they proceed to incorporate the dead man in their play, burying him and digging him up again and again. Someone chances to see them and sounds the alarm that there is a dead man in their midst.

The people discover that his skin is covered with 'a crust of mud and scales.' The women carefully clean his body and remove the stones entangled in his hair, while the men go off to inquire if anyone is missing from surrounding villages. The women notice that the vegetation on him seems to have come from faraway waters and that his clothes are in tatters. As they clean him off, they discover that the dead man is 'the tallest, strongest, most virile, and best built man' they have ever seen. Fascinated by this specimen of masculine perfection, the women shave him, cut his nails, and comb his hair. They remove his torn clothing and put ill-fitting pants on him which they sewed themselves, made from a large piece of sail. However, the mighty width of his chest pops the buttons of the brabant linen shirt they made for him. They also adorn his body with all manner of relics and trinkets. Finally, the handkerchief is also removed from his face. All agree that this is definitely Esteban; with his 'cleaned up' appearance, he finally looks presentable enough to have a dignified burial at sea.

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