The Handsomest Drowned Man In The World | Study Guide

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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The Handsomest Drowned Man In The World | Symbols



At the beginning of the story, the village is described as having "stone courtyards with no flowers" and is depicted as sparse and small with only 20 or so wooden houses. After the drowned man is washed ashore and the women begin to get a closer look at him while cleaning him, they imagine the life he would have lived as someone who would have been able to plant flowers on the cliffs by digging springs among the rocks. As they conduct his funeral, the townspeople lavish his body with flowers, and some of the women go to other villages to gather more flowers, until there are so many flowers in the town that it is difficult to walk. After his funeral, the town plants flowers on the cliffs so that passing ships will recognize it as "Esteban's village." The increasing and enduring presence of the flowers comes to symbolize the impact the drowned man has had upon the town and its people, leading to its transformation.

The Sea

The sea is both setting and symbol in this story. Even the title hints at the effects of the sea, given that it is about a "drowned" man. García Márquez implies throughout the story that the sea is full of mysteries that can be subjectively interpreted, such as the drowned man himself. His shape even changes as the children strain to recognize him—first he is a ship, and then a whale, and when he washes ashore he is covered in elements of the sea, such as seaweed and jellyfish. The sea takes on a magical, mythical quality as much as it is the source of the town's livelihood—a place "where the fish are blind and the divers die of nostalgia." Although the drowned man comes from the sea and is returned to it in burial, he has a profound effect on the town's people and their trajectory. By using the sea as a symbol, García Márquez imbues the story with the notion that the sea and what it conjures is magical and mysterious.

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