"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.
"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.