The men who carried him to the nearest house noticed that he weighed more than any dead man they had ever known, almost as much as a horse, and they said to each other that maybe he'd been floating too long and the water had got into his bones. (2)
The drowned man has, by the second paragraph, already been compared to a whale, a ship, and a horse. We see from the very beginning that he's portrayed as more than merely a man.
They did not even have to clean off his face to know that the dead man was a stranger. (3)
This factor adds to the drowned man's mystique.
They noticed too that he bore his death with pride, for he did not have the lonely look of other drowned men who came out of the sea or that haggard, needy look of men who drowned in rivers. (3)
This is the first non-physical attribute the women assign to the drowned man. What causes them to speculate about his character the way that they do?
He looked so forever dead, so defenseless, so much like their men that the first furrows of tears opened in their hearts. (7)
Only two paragraphs ago the women regarded the drowned man as entirely different from their own men. What has changed?
He was the most destitute, most peaceful, and most obliging man on earth, poor Esteban. (7)
The villagers' characterization of the drowned man has changed in content, but not in form. He is still described with superlatives.
Men and women became aware for the first time of the desolation of their streets, the dryness of their courtyards, the narrowness of their dreams as they faced the splendor and beauty of their drowned man. (12)
The villager's admiration for the drowned man has turned inward; he has become a standard for their own improvement.