Magical Realism
The Handsomest Drowned
Man in the World
By: Gabriel García Márquez
Presentation By: Matt, Laura, Brittany, Haley
• Esteban:
– Drowned in ocean, washes up in small fishing village
– Not known by anyone in village or surrounding
– Taller and more handsome than any of the men of the
– Dynamic character
• At first appears to be some sort of extraordinary being, perfect
in every aspect, being the “[…]tallest, strongest, most virile,
and best-built man they had ever seen” (702).
• Later, when women of the village realize that he probably
struggled to completer everyday tasks with his epic size, he
suddenly becomes “[…]so defenseless, so much like their men
that he opened the first furrows in their hearts” (705).
– Described from the village women's point of view,
exists as they describe him
• Described as if he was alive
Characters (cont.)
• Villagers:
– 3rd person narrator describes Esteban as he
appears in the eyes of the Villagers
– Village Women:
• Adore Esteban, compare their husbands to him
• Provide only description of Esteban in story
• Protagonists, as they support Esteban, because he did
not mean to bring any trouble to the village
– Village Men:
• Initially dislike Esteban’s presence, because their wives
compare Esteban to them
• Antagonists, as they detest Esteban and all the trouble
he causes the village
– Come to like Esteban when they see that “[…]he was
ashamed, that it was not his fault that he was so big or
so heavy or so handsome […]” (705).
Setting and Conflict
• Setting:
– Unnamed fishing village with little land
– Overlooking sea
• Conflict:
– Man (village women) vs. Man (village men)
Plot Structure
• Exposition
– body of “Handsomest drowned man” discovered on shore by
– Body covered with crust of mud and scales
• Rising action
– Women clean and dress the drowned man, prepare him for
• Decide to call drowned man Esteban
– Women comment on how handsome Esteban is, compare him to
their husbands
• Husbands jealous of Esteban
– Women realize that Esteban “[…]must have been [unhappy] with
[his] huge body” (703).
• Begin to pity Esteban
– Men confront women over Esteban, claiming there need not be
such a fuss over a dead man
– Upon seeing Esteban’s face, they recognize his humanity, and
how ashamed he must have been, causing everyone so much
Plot Structure (cont.)
• Climax
– Esteban’s funeral held, Esteban put to rest in ocean
– Once they realize Esteban is going to leave them, the villagers
become aware of how desolate and dry their village and
dreams are when compared to the grandeur of Esteban
– Esteban put to rest in ocean
• Falling Action
– Villagers realize that without Esteban, “[…]they were no
longer all present, that they would never be” (706).
• Resolution
– Villagers propose changes to village made to honor Esteban
• Houses built with “[…]wider doors, higher ceilings, and stronger
floors, so that if so that Esteban’s memory could go everywhere”
• Flowers planted to so that Esteban’s memory would be
acknowledged by any passing sailors
Realistic Elements
• The man later known as Esteban is found
dead by the ocean.
• The basic setting of an ocean is ideally
• The villagers and the village itself is ideal
because they are ordinary people living in a
stable but prehistoric environment.
• The villagers have a funeral for Esteban.
Magical Elements
• Esteban’s appearance and physical
features seem unreal and impossible.
– He is very handsome although he is dead.
– He is very tall and large.
• The villager’s reaction to Esteban also
emphasize the magical elements.
– “That a dead man can have so much influence
on a village full of people who seem to find
drowning victims on their beach creates a sense
that this event is something extraordinary”
(Wilson,ed. 83).
Magical Elements
• The setting and unanswered questions that
pertain to the story also adhere to its magical
– “The mythical namelessness of the village and the
historically vague setting add to this perception” (Wilson,
ed. 83).
– “The village seems to be like a fairytale land since it has
no definite location and the people are isolated from the
outside world” (Wilson, ed. 83).
– Not only does the village have an unknown name and
location, but the villagers are also nameless. It is
significant that Esteban is given a name and the villagers
are not because it means that Esteban is more important
than the villagers.
• The purpose of the unidentifiable land is to show
how the land relates to the lives of the villagers.
The villagers do not have fun. They live life dry
and miserable. Their land is similar in that it is
small, boring, and dull.
• The purpose of Esteban is to show how a village
can come together and work hard to improve their
lives. He shows the reader how life can change
and how it should be because he himself is not
ordinary. Because of the differences between him
and the villagers, Esteban shows how being
different is a reward.
• Esteban is treated like a stereotype. He is the
typical hero in a fairytale.
– “Oftentimes in our culture, celebrities live lives completely removed
from ours, yet people sit around fascinated by them. They endlessly
discuss their beauty, their clothing, and what they do with their
time. And here, we have this same thing happening. This handsome
drowned man who lived his entire life completely removed from this
tiny village is suddenly now almost being worshipped by the
villagers” (Renee).
• Esteban is presented as a perfect man.
– The women compare their men to Esteban and believe that they are
no match compared to him.
– “They make assumptions based on Esteban's looks and begin to
fantasize about his accomplishments” (Renee).
– “The women’s thoughts and constant pondering over Esteban is very
much like the fawning over today’s celebrities. In this world we
often categorize people into Angelina Jolies or Brad Pitts and
consider them to be perfect in all aspects of their lives. This is very
much like how the village women treat Esteban. He is a celebrity to
them” (Renee).
Characters’ Reaction
• At the beginning of the story, the villagers
thought nothing of their land and took no
pride or care of it.
• At the end of the story, the villagers analyze
their homeland and use the resources they
have to plant flowers on cliffs, dig for
springs, make their house door wider, their
ceilings higher, their floors stronger, and the
front doors painted with cheerful colors.
Characters’ Reaction
• The village women are most impressed with
Esteban because he is the tallest, strongest, most
virile, and most best-built man in the village. He is
also very handsome and appears to be a peaceful
and proud man, although poor.
• The village men, however, want to get rid of
Esteban as soon as possible. When the take a look
at him and consider how and why the women are
so impressed by him, the come to an
understanding that Esteban is a special person
who must be honored and loved.
Relationship Between Real & Unreal
•Real feelings; love, pity, jealousy, frustration
•It is the women who magically and imaginatively create his name,
Esteban, and his life story
•Part of the magic of the story is the way their imaginations stretch to
accommodate the wonder of Esteban
“They thought would have had so much authority that he
could have drawn fish out of the sea simply by calling their names and
[…] springs would have burst forth from among the rocks“ (703).
•Extraordinary height, their imaginations create the possibility that
"maybe the ability to keep on growing after death was part of the
nature of certain drowned men".
•Seen through the gaze of the villagers, their ordinary world takes on
extraordinarily small and meager proportions, from their beds, to their
clothes to their men
•Yet, it also made kinsmen of them all, symbolizing how their
encounter with his extraordinary body transforms the ordinary village,
leaving magic in their lives long after he has gone, as their minds,
lives, houses and streets are forever transformed by his uncommon
“She always includes details that give reality to
fantasy, help us believe in the unbelievable”. -Peter S. Prescott, a
reviewer for Newsweek
Dreamlike Qualities
From the size of the beds to the size of the shoes available amongst the
villagers, there was nothing big enough or strong enough to fit the drowned
The men made such references as his body weighing as much as a "horse," a
house was not big enough for his body
They thought that the night's steady wind and the restless sea had something
to do with the handsomest drowned man
"But they also know that everything would be different from then on, that their
houses would have wider doors, higher ceilings, and stronger floors so that
Esteban's memory could go everywhere without bumping into beams, and so
that no one in the future would ever dare whisper the big boob finally died, too
bad, the handsome fool has finally died“ (706).
“…and the hidden strength of his heart popped the buttons on his shirt”
Children had no idea he was a dead man so in the beginning they used him to
play with
-when the adults discovered their gruesome play-mate, they hardly
recognized him as a man because of all the crust, mud, and scales on him
“The Handsomest Drowned Man illustrates the manner in which Gabriel Garcia
Marquez utilizes a heroic figure to revolutionize mundane reality” (160) – George
R. McMurray
• days of the week
• “After midnight the whistling of the wind died down, and the sea fell into its
Wednesday drowsiness”. (703).
• Wednesday describes the drowsiness of the people
-normally the villagers are running low on food
-offers the people no excitement in their day
- is considered to be a “tiresome” day
-not interesting
-”…when has there ever been such a fuss over a drifting corpse, a drowned nobody, a
piece of cold Wednesday meat” (705).
• Thursday describes the beginning of excitement again
-fishermen normally return from the sea on this day bearing food
-interest returns
• Time is everlasting for Esteban, while the villagers have been on the structured days
of the week cycle, Esteban symbolizes the freedom of time after death and how it never
really stops or starts for him.
“…Esteban’s memory could go everywhere without bumping into beams…” (706).
His memory is everlasting, after death time seems to be irrelevant
“They let him go without an anchor so that he could come back if he wished and whenever
he wished…”(706).
Cultural/Political Message
• Columbian culture
-Gabriel grew up in similar town, reason
he recreated this town was to recreate a
better village, wishing Esteban came
when he was living there
• Influence of an outsider, different than
them, bringing change to their society
-changes in villagers and look of village
Theme 1
• Myth and Human Condition:
The tendency for people to create
The human imagination seeks the
explanation for the unknown (Wilson,
ed. 82)
supporting text: “They thought that if that magnificent man
had lived in the village, his house would have been made
form a mid-ship frame held together by iron bolts, and his
wife would have been the happiest woman” (703).
Theme 2
• Beauty and Aesthetics:
A person of beauty often receives more
The villagers realize the lack of beauty
in their own village (Wilson, ed. 82)
supporting text: “But only when they finished cleaning him
off did they become aware of the kind of man he was, and it
left them breathless” (702).
“They were going to break their backs digging for springs
among the stones and planting flowers on the cliffs […]”
Esteban represents the
Greek Titan Prometheus
who gave fire to mankind
and as punishment was
chained to a mountain and
is the “messenger of hope,
beauty, and solidarity”
(McMurray 148).
☼ Esteban’s gift, instead of fire,
was kindness and sincerity.
☼ Esteban’s physique matches
that of Prometheus
Symbolism 1~Critics & Text
“‘The Handsomest Drowned
Man in the World’ is
reminiscent of the myth of
Prometheus, the Greek hero
who gave fire to mankind.
Esteban’s gifts, however,
are beauty, hope and
human solidarity, the keys
to happiness and the best
antidotes for human
degradation” (McMurray
“Not only was he the tallest,
strongest, most virile, and
best built man they had
ever seen, but even though
they were looking at him
there was no room for him
in their imagination” (702).
Symbolism 2
• Esteban = change and hope
“[…] 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” (706).
“Esteban’s departure creates an awareness of the emptiness
of their own lives have been. They believe, however, that
things will change from the size of the buildings in the town
to the flowers that will be cultivated, everything will be better
in the town” (Williams 97).
• The story alludes to Homer’s Odyssey
– mentions the Sirens.
supporting text: “Some sailors who heard the weeping from a
distance went off course, and people heard of one who had
himself tied to the mainmast, remembering ancient fables
about sirens” (706).
– Refers to the crying during Esteban’s funeral and the crying is
like the luring songs of the sirens.
– Esteban is a “myth”
Figurative Language
• Imagery:
“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”
• Simile:
“They walked about like startled hens, pecking with the sea
charms on their breasts, some interfering on one side to put a
scapular of the good wind on the drowned man” (705).
Figurative Language cont.
• Metaphor:
“The village was made up of only twenty-odd wooden houses
that had stone courtyards with no flowers and which were
spread about on the end of a desertlike cape” (702).
• Personification:
“[The captain] would say in fourteen languages, look there,
where the wind is so peaceful now that it's gone to sleep
beneath the beds, over there, where the sun's so bright that
the sunflowers don't know which way to turn, yes, over there,
that's Esteban's village” (706).
“They wanted to tie the anchor from a cargo ship to him so
that he would sink easily into the deepest waves, where fish
are blind and divers die of nostalgia and bad currents would
not bring him back to shore” (705).
Biography- Significant Events
• March 6, 1928 – Born in Aracataca, a small town
near the Atlantic coast of Columbia
• Lived with grandmother until eight years old,
inspired by her storytelling
• Studied law at the University of Bogota, until it
closed down in 1984 due to civil war
• Later, he switched to Journalism, studying at the
University of Cartegena
• Published short stories and articles
• After writing an article on the Colombian navy
carrying contraband cargo, moved to Europe to
avoid wrath of Colombian government
Biography- Major Works
Leaf Storm, 1954
No One Writes to the Colonel, 1958
The Evil Hour, 1962
Big Mama’s Funeral, 1962
One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1967
Love in the Time of Cholera, 1988
Diatribe of Love Against a Seated Man,
• The General in his Labyrinth, 1991.
• “Considered by many to be Colombia’s foremost
writer” (Mark Scott).
• Oprah's Book Club Best Novel nominee (2004) :
One Hundred Years of Solitude
• Venezuela’s Romulo Gallegos Prize : One
Hundred Years of Solitude
• Books Abroad/ Neustadt International Prize for
Literature : One Hundred Years of Solitude
• Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982
Writing Style
• “[my stories] reflect the reality of life in
Colombia and this theme determines
the rational structure of the books”
(Garcia Marquez).
• Uses much figurative language
• Often puts extreme detail into small
• Treats magical elements as if they
were perfectly normal

The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World