The Transformation of a Fishing Village
A drowned man is anything but handsome. In the film “Castaway” made in the year 2000, the main character played by Tom Hanks pulls a drowned man who was his pilot from the sea. He is bloated and his skin is green. He is definitely not a handsome man. Why then would Gabriel Garcia Marquez write a story about a handsome drowned man? Marquez writes a magical story of a man from a faraway land washing up on the shore of a remote village. Though he is dead, the main character Esteban becomes a hero of transformation through characterization, genre of magical realism and setting in the “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World”. Marquez illustrates that the people who come into our lives, even in the most unusual circumstances can change our outlook on the world.
The drowned man starts off as just a corpse who is found by the children of the village but through his characterization becomes a hero and finally a member of the village’s family. The children see him floating and at first think he is an enemy ship and then a whale. Only when he washes up on the beach do they realize he is a man. The dead man is brought to the village and cared for by the women. At first the women are overtaken by his beauty and physique. Slowly the drowned man becomes Esteban. Marquez is known for writing stories based on real places in Latin America and there “Esteban” is a folk hero known as Estevanico (Davey). He comes to life in their minds as they dress him, comb his hair and cut his nails. They all become his mother as they think of how, “…unhappy he must have been with that huge body since it bothered him even after death” (6.10). Though he is dead, Esteban starts to look, “so much like their men” (6.22) because they can see him as the man he was when he was alive. Soon, the villagers realize the, “…drowned man was becoming all the more Esteban for them, and so they wept so much, for he was the most destitute, most peaceful and most obliging man on earth, poor Esteban” (6.25).
The men in the story have been out inquiring from other villages about Esteban to see if anyone is missing him. After some hesitation the men of the village are also overcome by Esteban when a handkerchief is removed from his face. “He was Esteban. It was not necessary to repeat it for them to recognize him” (8.1). Esteban pleads his story in the minds of the men and women watching over him as he explains, “that it was not his fault that he was so big or so heavy or so handsome and if he had known that this was going to happen, he would have looked for a more discreet place to drown in…” Esteban’s thoughts go on to explain that his dead body, “this filthy piece of cold meat …doesn’t have anything to do with me” (8.11). It is almost as if Esteban is really alive speaking out loud and apologizing for the inconvenience he has caused and in doing so, he changes the lives of the villagers surrounding him.
Finally, the people of the village realize they must let go of Esteban and give him, “…the most splendid funeral they could ever conceive of for an abandoned drowned man” (9.1). It pains them to return this orphan to the sea so they, “chose a father and mother from among the best people, and aunts and uncles and cousins, so that through him all inhabitants of the village became his kinsmen” (9.7). The villagers even hope that he will return to them somehow one day. “They let him go without an anchor so that he could come back if he wished and whenever he wished…” (9.14). Esteban evolves from a nameless corpse to a loved member of the community in just a short time as the villagers make him a part of their family.
From the very beginning of the story, Marquez’s use of magical realism is evident. While the village and its villager exist within a very realistic setting and perform normal daily routines, the arrival of the drowned man depicts elements of the surreal and fantastic. The name Esteban is a reference to the...
Cited: Davey, V. (2015). First African Explorer in North America: Estevanico. Retrieved from
Marquez, G. G. (2015). The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World. Retrieved from http://www.utdallas.edu/~aargyros/hansomest.htm
Pagnucci, G. (2015). Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved from http://www.english.iup.edu/pagnucci/courses/121/definitions/litdefinition- magicalrealism.htm
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