The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

by Gabriel García Márquez

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What do the villagers do with the drowned man's body in "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World"?

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When the villagers find the children burying and digging up the drowned man's body, they take him to a house in the village. Since the drowned man has been floating through the sea, he needs to be washed. The village women wash and clean his body.

Next, they try to find clothes for him. Since he is the largest man they have ever seen, they have to sew clothes to fit him. The village women make a big fuss over cleaning and dressing him. They have become enamored with the drowned man. He is the most handsome man they have ever seen. They even give him a name--Esteban. The women compare him to their own men:

The women of the village find him "speaking" to them in other ways, making them compare their husbands to his splendid size and handsome features. His presence in the village forces them to examine their lives and to work together to beautify their village. Esteban exists, then, not in the body of the dead man the village children have found on the beach, but in the minds of the villagers themselves, who are inspired to better their lives.

The whole village comes out to see the drowned man. They begin to mourn for him as if he were a family member. In fact, the villagers assign a family to adopt the drowned man. With his new family in place, the official mourning begins. Everyone is so touched by this drowned man. They plan a formal burial or memorial service.

Everyone gathers on a cliff and they pay their last respects for this drowned man. It would appear that the villagers have always known this man. During the formal service, they throw his body off the cliff, and the drowned man returns to the ocean.

No doubt, it has been a week of excitement as the villagers prepared the drowned man's body for burial. They mourned for him as if they had always been closely attached to the drowned man. They adopt Esteban and their village becomes Esteban's village:

After the funeral, they decide to change things: they will build bigger houses so Esteban's memory will have no trouble visiting; they will paint their homes to honor his memory; and they will plant flowers on the cliffs so that in the future passengers on ocean liners will smell the aroma and the captains of the ships will point to their roses and say: "That's Esteban's village."

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