What do you think flowers symbolize in "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World?"

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a great question! Flowers are mentioned towards the end of the story when the villagers organise the funeral for "Esteban", as they have come to call him. Note what Marquez says about the funeral arrangements:

Some women who had gone to get flowers in the neighbouring villages returned with other women who could not believe what they had been told, and those women went back for more flowers when they saw the dead man, and they brought more and more until there were so many flowers and so many people that it was hard to walk about.

The flowers obviously symbolise the impact and transformation that Esteban has had on the villagers, but also their desire to commemorate him and remember his presence. Yet what interests me is how the villagers resolve to live their lives as a result of Esteban and his time with them. Note how they plan to change their drab village:

...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...

Relating flowers to the wider message of the story, you could argue that because of Esteban's presence in the lives of the villagers, they are now inspired and empowered to transform their lives and make them more beautiful and achieve wondrous things. The flowers therefore could be said to represent the beauty that we are all capable of making in our lives, but which sometimes we need inspiration to achieve.

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