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.