The Handsomest Drowned Man In The World | Study Guide

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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The Handsomest Drowned Man In The World | Character Analysis


The drowned man

The drowned man's backstory is never given by the narrator and never discovered by the townspeople. His life and his death remain a mystery, yet the women begin to project a narrative of what he must have been like in life and the things he endured. He becomes so real and lifelike to them that they bestow the name of Esteban on him, which the rest of the town comes to readily accept. Although the drowned man is never a living character in the story, his arrival sparks a major transformation in the townspeople and their ideas for the future.

The women

The women of the town are transformed over the course of the story because of their interactions with the drowned man. At first they are curious about him, and as they begin to clean him they are in awe of his size and obvious strength. They begin projecting ideas about who he might have been onto him, which also causes them to compare their own men to him. Yet, after one of the women declares the drowned man's name is Esteban, their awe turns to empathy, as they begin to imagine how hard his life might have been. They also begin to revere him as though he were a god who washed ashore.

The men

The men of the town are only described as a collective entity, despite the fact that "all the men fit in seven boats." The narrator never depicts them as individuals, but they appear in contrast to the drowned man, both to the women and to the reader. They are able to discern that the drowned man is a stranger even before they clean off his face, which further portrays them as a collective in which they are more similar than different. The men resent the women's admiration of the drowned man, but once the handkerchief is taken off his face they come to revere him as well.

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