Why do the women entertain such fantasies about the drowned man in "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World"?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The drowned man represents the mysterious "other."  Unlike the men of the fishing village who are predictable, in both habit and appearance, the drowned man is exotic.  Moreover, they can project any history they like on the stranger, imagining him as they see fit.   

One of the exciting things about the man, and what propels their imaginations, is his unusually large frame.  (He is so much physically larger than their men):

They could see him in life, condemned to going through doors sideways, cracking his head on crossbeams, remaining on his feet during visits, not know what to do with his soft, pin, sea lion hands...

The women are glad to discover that the dead man is not from a neighboring village, for, if he had been, he would have been too much "one of their own."  The fact that his identity and origins, and even the way he died, remains mysterious allows the women of the village to hope for a life that might be more exciting than the one they have always known. 

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