The Handsomest Drowned Man

Gabriel García Márquez


  • Born March 6, 1927 → Died April 17, 2014

  • Colombian novelist and one of the greatest writers of the 20th century

    • awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982

  • Best-known Latin American writer in history

  • Superb writer of short stories and an accomplished journalist

  • Works

    • The Leaf Storm

    • In Evil Hour

    • No One Writes to the Colonel

    • One Hundred Years of Solitude

Literary Terms

-Allusion-an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference.

-Magic Realism- shows range of different concepts, share a common acceptance of magic in the rational world

-Symbolism- Esteban- a symbol of the god or gods of any religion that has the power to transform the lives of the people in a village

-Point of View- Third person

-Setting- Geographical context: more modern setting-a backwater village lost in time and no particular place


“He looked so forever dead, so defenseless, so much like their men that the first furrows of tears opened in their hearts.”

“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.”

“They did not even have to clean off his face to know that the dead man was a stranger.”

Brief Summary

The story starts with a group of children playing on the beach of a small village. In the waves a bulge is approaching. It turns out to be a drowned man, covered in seaweed, stones, and dead sea creatures. The men head to neighboring villages to see if the dead man belongs to one of them, while the women clean off the body and prepare it for a funeral.While the women work on the drowned man's body, they discover that he is the biggest, strongest-looking, and handsomest man they have ever seen in their lives, or could ever imagine. They conclude that he is a man named Esteban, and when the men return with the news that no neighboring towns can claim him, the women weep with joy that he is now "theirs." The men don't understand what all the fuss is about until the women show them the drowned man's face. Then they, too, are in awe at his handsomeness, his masculinity, and his size. While they admire the drowned man, they think that he must have been ashamed of his size in life, and must have felt awkward on account of it.Together, the villagers prepare a splendid funeral for the drowned man. When they finally let his body go over the cliff and back to the waves below, they all know that their lives have been permanently changed. They know that they will build their houses stronger and bigger, so as to be big enough for a man like Esteban. They will paint their walls brighter and plant flowers, so that some day, when the ships pass by their town, they will look at the bright, beautiful, fragrant town and say, "that's Esteban's village."


  1. How does the drowned man transform the people and their village?

  2. How does the description of the drowned man change over the course of the story?

  3. What are the men’s attitudes towards the man?

  4. What are the drowned man’s physical qualities?

  5. What do the villagers decide to do after they bury the drowned man?
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