Style and Technique

Whether children could grasp the occasionally long Faulknerian sentences in this story is debatable, but they could probably follow the switches of voice within the sentences better than adults. The switches of voice reflect the villagers’ thoughts, including what they think the corpse is thinking; this complexity is all subsumed and remarkably controlled by the humorous voice of the omniscient narrator, who makes it seem like child’s play. The style is known as García Márquez’s Magical Realism, made famous in One Hundred Years of Solitude. The style also features exaggeration (as in the size of the corpse here) and imaginative thrusts (“the men began to feel mistrust in their livers”) that now and then verge into fantasy.

It is certainly fantasy that the drowned man’s corpse does not stink, a fantasy that enables García Márquez to construct a symbolism of smells reminiscent of the one in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” (1930). Although Faulkner is perhaps the greatest influence on García Márquez, here the pupil reverses the master. Whereas Faulkner’s story begins with a strong smell and ends with a decayed corpse, García Márquez’s story begins with a remarkably preserved corpse and ends up smelling like roses. The symbolism typifies García Márquez’s style, his gift to the world.

Historical Context

Political Background
During the period of European imperialism following Columbus's arrival in the New World, Colombia's...

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Literary Style

The arrival of a large drowned man on their shores inspires the imagination of the inhabitants of a tiny fishing village.


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Ideas for Group Discussions

In "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World," Garcia Marquez examines the power of the human imagination and its ability to create...

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Social Concerns

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, considered by many to be Colombia's foremost writer, has gained much of his recognition by writing stories that...

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Compare and Contrast

1940s: Garcia Marquez composes several short stories that blend realistic elements with the fantastic. This style, known as magic...

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Topics for Further Study

Research La Violencia, Colombia's fifteen-year period of civil strife, and consider ways in which "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World''...

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Literary Precedents

One of the most important influences on Garcia Marquez, The Kingdom of the World (1949), by Alejo Carpentier, is a magic realist look...

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Related Titles

Elements of magic realism appear frequently in Garcia Marquez's early short fiction, and in many of his novels. For example, "A Very Old Man...

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What Do I Read Next?

"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is another story by Garcia Marquez that features a stranger's arrival in a seaside village.


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Bibliography and Further Reading

Frosch, Marta Morello, "The Common Wonders of Garcia Marquez's Recent Fiction," Books Abroad, Vol. 47, No. 3,...

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