The Theme of Identity and Perceptions in The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2022
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Throughout the course of “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” by Gabriel Marquez, the characters find themselves at odds with their perceptions of reality and the way that the world exists. The story follows the effects that one dead man can have on a village of people, arguing that a person who is truly extraordinary can in turn affect those around them, to help motivate them to become something more than they are and to ultimately better themselves and those around them as well. In this story, interestingly, the changes that happen to each person are internal and are manifested through their own type of reflection on reality, The man that inspires this change is dead and as such, it implies that the villagers are capable of instilling a sense of change in themselves through the way that they perceived his impact internally.

Because of this, the perceptions that the people make of the man as a result of their imaginations ultimately affects their livelihoods and the way that they perceive social standards and representations of masculinity and beauty within their culture. The story beings when a body washes upon the shore of an island and the people begin to ponder upon the origins of the corpse and what his life entailed. Through doing this, Marquez immediately highlights the strength and collective force of the island's imagination and the meaning that is constructed from the body, as it soon becomes synonymous with the identity of the island's people. Upon being discovered, the village decides that it is important to give the man a funeral and they begin to set out, attempting to both identify the being and give him a proper sendoff.

The overall nature of the story's themes of the prominence of imagination begin immediately in this story. This is evident when the men of the village bring the body to the women in so that they can help prepare his corpse for the funeral, while they attempt to find his relatives or anyone who might know him in neighboring towns. Upon removing all of the debris and mud from his face, the women find that he is tall and very handsome, They immediately become infatuated with him, dreaming about what he must have been like and the life that he led Using their imaginations, they begin romanticizing about the man and develop a narrative surrounding his life, One of the older women of the village eventually decides that his name was Estebani Initially, the younger women in the village begin to disagree but after a short period of arguing over his name, they all agree and decide that this was his name.

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The women then reflect upon the concept of masculinity, and begin to address many of the prominent attributes of Esteban such as his large stature, They find that many of the clothes that they make him do no not fit his large frame and soon, they begin to analyze what his life must have been like, given that he had to deal with the disadvantages of his size, They quickly begin to judge the basis of their own husbands off of the standards that they develop, coinciding with the appearance and stature of Esteban. As a result of this, the women in the town begin to redefine masculinity itself, reflecting it as a sort of idealized imaginary trait, which in turn perpetuates a cycle ofjudgment in which they characterize their own husbands based upon Estebani These thoughts and beliefs occur as a reflection of the imaginations of the women within the village itself, and help to develop their interpretations of their own reality, When the men return to the village, they find that the women have created elaborate decorations, such as holy water and a compass for his altar.

The men are immediately caught off-guard by this and grow very annoyed with this behavior They consider it absurd that their wives are acting in such a way for a complete stranger, which is essentially what Esteban is when his corpse is first discovered In all actuality, Esteban possesses no name of which they are aware When the story begins, there is nothing that the people of the village know of him at all, There is no actual name that is attached to his person and there are no indications of the life that he lived before he died. Yet, as the people in the village begin to recognize the defining physical characteristics of Esteban, they become enamored with him. This happens for the men as well, who are also humbled and in awe of his face when the women reveal it to them The prominence of their own imaginations continues to develop throughout the narrative of the story, as all of this escalates to the point of which.

Esteban gains supporters from other villages, as men and women alike flock to his funeral to bid him farewelL This happens so frequently that the village becomes so crowded that it becomes hard to walk throughout the town, and they essentially take him in as one of their own Esteban becomes a namesake to the people of the village. They even select parents from the town for him because they don't want him to be buried as an “orphan" which shows the connection that the people make to him, based exclusively upon their own interpretations (Marquez, 78) Eventually, a whole family is selected for Esteban and rather than allowing him to be anchored when he is buried, they choose to let his body go without one so that he may return one day, The funeral is elaborate and built off of the imaginations of the people in the village. The strength of their collective imaginations is evident, as they begin to build houses with larger door frames and paint the houses with brighter colors.

The larger, more brightly covered houses are used to illustrate the way that they reimagine masculinity itself as well, to reflect both the size and physical attractiveness of Esteban's corpse, The power of imagination is pronounced in this story. The people of the village are able to completely create a narrative for a man that they‘ve never met and for one who isn’t even alive by the time of the narratives start. They see the visage of the man and give him a name, developing a narrative for his entire life and who he was when he was alive. The prominence of their abilities to contort reality is shown in the way that they conceive his funeral and the subsequent treatment of “Esteban” after the funeral is over. Because of the way that they treated him and the intricacies of their own imaginations, Esteban takes on a life of his own, and the people herald him with such regard as one of their own.

In this regard, the reader is able to see the depths to which they develop the narrative and not only do so, but allow it to affect their own realities in turn. Esteban redefines the concept of masculinity within the island, essentially presenting a new standard for the people to aspire to achieve, and showcasing attributes that hadn’t existed in the men, according to their wives and eventually themselves over the course of the story The people of the island cling to him and this reflects the general tendencies that they have to manifest their own imaginations in the realities of their lives, By the end of the story, Esteban is regarded as a motivator for a lot of positive change in the village, given that the people who live there attempt to make their houses and homes more convenient for a man of his stature, and they go so far as to beautify the town to reflect the way that they perceived him as well.

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The Theme of Identity and Perceptions in The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World. (2022, Nov 06). Retrieved from

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