Magical realism is an essential component of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works. The distinctive feature of this genre is incorporating fantastical elements into casual life situations (Wilson 79). The enormous influence on Marquez’s writing was made by his grandmother’s mystical stories and folk tales, building an excellent background for his future fictional stories (Wilson 80). Therefore, the writer continued to bridge the gap between magical elements and the realistic setting in his works.
For example, in “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” the author combines a mythical figure with the real world, creating room for imagination and ultimately room for change. The magical element of “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” allows the villagers to imagine the mythical man’s journey of our world, which begins the transformation of the village. Marquez uses the elements of magical realism not only to bring a village of people closer together but to build a better community.
The story commences with the discovery of a massive object by children playing on the seashore. The discovery of this object, which appeared to be the drowned man, is the event that sets into action the transformation of the village. The reason why the dead man attracted the attention of the entire town is that he was “the tallest, strongest, most virial, and best-built man they had ever seen” (Marquez 2).
The small village had never seen anyone like him, he was a mythical figure, and they started to imagine his hypothetical life in their town. Magical realism transcends through this story by bringing an unusual figure on a usual Wednesday afternoon. The dead man transforms into a supernatural element by the vision of the village inhabitants, who became attached to the man through the narrative they created about him in their collective imagination (Wilson 82).
The cadaver brought by the sea opened their eyes to a world of beauty and gave the villagers a magical view of reality, creating the need for improvement in this desert-like village.
The unprecedented nature of the drowned man left a lasting impact on this community. Initially, the vast difference between the village and the dead man’s body can be seen because the island where these people lived was extremely narrow, and their houses were too small for Esteban’s body (Wilson 82). This stranger had a handsome appearance, while “the village was made up of only twenty-odd wooden houses that had stone courtyards with no flowers” (Marquez 2).
However, this contrast diminishes over time, first in people’s imagination and then in reality. Women who were preparing Esteban’s body for the funeral imagined how magnificent the village would look if such a perfect man lived among them. Based on his appearance and dimensions of his body, women bestowed him with extraordinary features and talents that Esteban could possess, converting him from a cadaver to the magical element of this story.
Indeed, lavish funerals organized by the villagers for Esteban become a critical point for that community’s transformation, demonstrating their ability to create beauty. Therefore, when the whole community is associated with the idea that Esteban belonged to their group, they decide to beautify the village.
The dead man is represented as the magical element by his uniqueness and his role in the village’s transformation. The inhabitants of the unknown village give the handsome man a mythical name: “He has the face of someone called Esteban,” who was probably an exceptional figure in the past (Marquez 3). The reason why old women were convinced of his identity was that “the whistling of the wind died down and the sea fell into its Wednesday drowsiness” (Marquez 4).
Indeed, the sea embodies the role of a vessel for the main magical element, adding new meaning to the villagers’ lives by bringing them the corpse of a mystical stranger who changes people’s fate in the story. Indeed, the appearance of Esteban initiated the transformation of the small fishing village into a place with larger houses and flowery gardens: “Their houses would have wider doors, higher ceilings, and strong floors” (Marquez 8). They begin transforming the village in memory of the handsome drowned man so that all will know that this is Esteban’s village.
Overall, the magical elements of this story inspired the village to use their imagination in a new way, creating room for growth. It is the magical elements in a real-world setting that distinguishes Marquez’s “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” from other works of literature. Introducing the supernatural element into the story about an average group of people on a small island was essential for changing people’s mindsets and redirecting toward change and growth.
The ability to fantasize about a possible life with Esteban in this village demonstrates that these people needed an unusual inciting event to start dreaming about a better life. Furthermore, the funerals that women and men of this village organized elucidated their abilities to create beauty. Indeed, the interaction between the community and the handsome dead man inspires the villagers to improve their living conditions.
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World. Creative Education, 1993.
Wilson, Kathleen, editor. Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories. Gale, 1997.