Study Guide

The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World Transformation

By Gabriel García Márquez


He had the smell of the sea about him and only his shape gave one to suppose that it was the corpse of a human being, because the skin was covered with a crust of mud and scales. (2)

Compare this description of drowned man's state at the beginning of the story with his appearance later. How has the drowned man – as a body and an iconic figure – changed?

They could not find a bed in the village large enough to lay him on nor was there a table solid enough to use for his wake. The tallest men's holiday pants would not fit him, nor the fattest ones' Sunday shirts, nor the shoes of the one with the biggest feet. (4)

The drowned man is incompatible with the small village. But rather than transform him to fit their ways, as they attempt to by fixing up his body, he ends up changing them.

It seemed to them that the wind had never been so steady nor the sea so restless as on that night and they supposed that the change had something to do with the dead man. (4)

The women manifest their internal feelings of change in their surroundings.

They thought that he would have had so much authority that he could have drawn fish out of the sea simply by calling their names and that he would have put so much work into his land that springs would have burst forth from among the rocks so that he would have been able to plant flowers on the cliffs. (4)

When the villagers envision planting flowers themselves at the end of the story, it's as though they've taken on the powers they originally attributed to the drowned man.

It was then that they understood how unhappy he must have been with that huge body since it bothered him even after death. They could see him in life, condemned to going through doors sideways, cracking his head on crossbeams, remaining on his feet during visits, not knowing what to do with his soft, pink, sea lion hands (7)

The image of the drowned man has changed in the eyes of the villagers. They've now situated his mythological qualities in the context of reality.

Some women who had gone to get flowers in the neighboring villages returned with other women who could not believe what they had been told, and those women went back for more flowers when they saw the dead man, and they brought more and more until there were so many flowers and so may people that it was hard to walk about. (12)

Compare this to the initial description of the village. Note how much has changed, physically, since the drowned man's arrival.