At a glance, a story of The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World may seem not that exciting and, probably, not one of the best Gabriel Marquez’s stories. However, if read more carefully and analyzed, the story turns out to be a good guide to self-improvement, to living a better and more interesting life.
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Transformation, changes, and strive for better are one of the central themes in the story. In his work, Marquez tries to explain that people should not be merely satisfied with what they have, but dream about and seek for better and bigger. Another important theme covered is admiration, but in this story, it is also directly related to self-improvement.
So, what happened in the small fishing village that “was made up of only twenty-odd wooden houses that had stone courtyards with no flowers” at the day when the body of an unknown man was washed up on the beach (Marquez, 1999, p.248)? Why was it such an important event?
From the very first lines of the story, we see that the drowned man becomes an object of admiration for villagers, especially for women. They have never seen such a handsome, tall, and well-built man.
In their imagination, if this man had lived in their village, he would have the house with “the widest doors, the highest ceiling, and the strongest floor” and “his wife would have been the happiest woman” (Marquez, 1999, p. 249). Men of this village are also astonished by the drowned man. Although he is dead, they see that probably it was a great man who met his death with pride.
Yet, why do villagers admire the drowned man so much? The answer is simple. They just see in this dead man all those good qualities and characteristics they themselves find valuable and precious. Women in the village want to have the same strong and handsome husbands and want to be happy with them. Men in the village want to be the same great and, perhaps, want to be admired the same. Anyway, this admiration of the dead body shows that people want to live better and be better.
Transformation is another important theme in the short story. Again, from the very first seconds when people discover the drowned man, he has a kind of transformative effect on them. Although it is only villagers’ imagination where the man is so great and all his good qualities may not exist in reality, they are still so inspired, they want to change, they want to make lives better.
Even their small odd village as we see it at the beginning changes dramatically at the end of the story. People want to “paint their house fronts gay colors”, they want to “break their backs digging for springs among stones and planting flowers” (Marquez, 1999, p. 253).
Maybe, these are only their dreams, but the most important thing is that starting from this day, villagers know that they have a chance to have a different future and better lives.
What may be missing in this story? From my point of view, the story misses details about the drowned man himself. I would like to know who he really was, was he so great. I would like to know what his own life was like, whether it was bright and happy or dull and empty. Finally, I would like to know what happened to him, why his life ended up in the sea.
What this short story can teach us? First, it tells that no matter how one’s life may seem satisfactory, people should never stop developing and improving. Second, a lot of good qualities and inspirations for changes hide inside us. We simply need to discover them, and sometimes very strange events can help us do this.
Marquez, G. G. (1999). The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World. New York: First Perennial Classic.