In "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World," how does the drowned man transform the people and their village ?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is clear that the presence of Esteban, or the drowned man, has a massive impact on the life of the village and its inhabitants. Let us remember how the village is described at the beginning of the story:

The village was made up on only twenty-odd wooden houses that had stone courtyards with no flowers and which were spread about on the end of a desertlike cape. There was so little land that mothers always went about with the fear that the wind would carry off their children...

The village is clearly described in very bleak and drab terms, with the greyness and the lack of colour emphasised. Yet, by the end of the story, as the villagers celebrate the funeral of "Esteban", note how they plan to change their lives:

But they also knew that everything would be different from then on, that their houses would have wider doors, higher ceilings, and stronger floors so that Esteban's memory could go everywhere without bumping into beams... they were going to paint their house fronts gay colours 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...

It is clear that Esteban has helped the villagers realise that they can transcend their own limitations and transform their own lives. His presence has given them the inspiration and the self-belief necessary to see that they can enact massive changes in their lives, in spite of the challenges, and transform their way of life.

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