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Themes

"The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" explores the transformative effect of one dead man on an entire village. It argues that a truly great person has the power to change others, to inspire them to be better, to make them want to be extraordinary. It's interesting that, in this story, the villager's transformation originates entirely from within. The dead man is dead, after all, which means the villagers are responsible themselves and for the changes that they make.

Questions About Transformation

  1. How does the drowned man's arrival change the village? Is this change for better, or for worse? We've spent quite a bit of time talking about the wonderful impact of the drowned man's arrival, but what about the negative consequences?
  2. Is the change that the villagers imagine in the last paragraph of the story possible? Do they really intend to carry it out, or is it mere fantasy?
  3. Consider the transformation of the drowned man. How does he change physically as the story progresses? More importantly, how does the village's perception of him change as they prepare for his funeral?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" features three parallel and intertwined transformations: the drowned man's physical change, the change of the villager's perception of him, and the change in the villagers themselves.

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