The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

by Gabriel García Márquez

Start Free Trial

What changes do villagers want to make for Esteban in "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" tells the story of a larger-than-life corpse that washes up on the shore of a small village. The man is huge, so long that he cannot be placed on a bed and so heavy that no table will support his weight for a wake. The women of the village first view him in wonder as someone who would put their own husbands to shame. He is described as "the tallest, strongest, most virile, and best built man they had ever seen, but even though they were looking at him there was no room for him in their imagination." They agree that his name must be Esteban, although we are never told why the name Esteban is associated with such glory.

The struggles of the women to care for and clothe Esteban after his death also lead to their compassion for him during his life. How difficult it must have been for him to visit other people, to worry about breaking their chairs, to risk cracking his head on a beam, to have to go through doors sideways. The men of the village, at first frustrated by the attention the women are giving this body, are also moved to compassion after they see his face.

The funeral for this man spurs the villagers to want to be better people, to expand their dreams and beautify their home and streets. As they carry him to his watery grave, they "became aware for the first time of the desolation of their streets, the dryness of their courtyards, the narrowness of their dreams as they faced the splendor and beauty of their drowned man." In addition to making their houses accessible to the largest of people, they vow to beautify their village with bright paint and beautiful flowers, so that everyone who encounters their village will know that, yes, "that’s Esteban’s village."

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Despite the fact he is dead, the drowned man who is discovered washed up in a small seaside village is considered a superman in Gabriel García Márquez's short story "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World." He is a very large man, and the women of the village who sew new clothes for him believe him to be beautiful. One of the women gives him the name Esteban, and they all agree it suits the drowned man quite well.

Esteban becomes a hero for the villagers, and they prepare a splendid funeral for the man, whose identity is never discovered. Márquez tells the reader that in Esteban's honor the villagers widen the doors of their houses and build the ceilings higher so his "memory could go everywhere." They plan to paint their house fronts bright colors, dig for springs on the cliffs, and plant flowers which can be seen by the passengers on passing ships. When the captain sees the flowers, he will tell all that it is Esteban's village.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial