The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

Nov 30, 2017 at Literature Essays

The aforementioned narrative, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is a captivating piece of literature amongst others, which primarily delves into the aspect of availing global reading reach of locally written material, with the focus drawn towards Literature from the Americas. As such, it pertains to the impact, effects and comparisons drawn by local populations towards foreign ideals, objects and personalities, with the focus placed on a village within the coastal strip of the land. A lifestyle based on coastal agriculture and fishing has secluded this population from the greater global arena and hence structured their belief systems, traditions and overall culture on their isolated historical contexts, with sea creatures entailing the only foreign imagination they possess. 

It is towards the above that the discovery of the drowned man causes alarm in the village, with his unique characteristic traits (especially as pertaining to his physical attributes), greatly influencing resultant burial procedural measures. As such, by way of his hugeness, heaviness as well as his somehow-preserved body, he gives the impression of a foreign being, whose abilities and uniqueness, result in wild imagination, awe, as well as pity from the local villagers. According to the narrator, “They, (villagers) did not even have to clean off his face to know that the dead man was a stranger…” (671). Their stature being smaller than the drowned man, causes quite a stir as the local folks are unable to fathom the existence of such a living being.

This discovery disrupts their daily activities, with the women embarking on a cleansing ritual of the man, with their male counterparts, spreading to the various existent villages, with the aim of finding if he (drowned man) was a member of any. His strangeness baffles all as his body is entangled with vegetation from deep water in far away oceans with his clothes being tattered. His death first showcases pride, unlike the common impression of needy and/ or lonely looks as portrayed by drowning men. As the women embark on sewing befitting clothing, towards enabling the stranger continue through his journey in death with his dignity, do they notice that the night seems different, further signifying the uniqueness of the stranger before them (Marquez).

Nature of the Local Populations

Marquez hence portrays the greater Americas region as an isolated arena, revealing the un-influenced nature of the local populations present as pertaining to their culture and way of life. To the women, “it seemed that the wind had never been so steady nor the sea so, restless as on that night” (671). This is as a result of the women deducing that the change had some link to the dead man now in their midst. This portrays the symbolic presence of the stranger, whom they secretly compare to their own men-folk. They compose up various imaginative capabilities of the man, displaying him as being in possession of unfathomed power, leading the womenfolk towards “… dismissing them (their men folk) deep in their hearts as the weakest, meanest and most useless creatures on earth” (671).

This is founded on their imagination, which through comparison to their male folk provides a huge difference between the latter and the drowned man. The women result in naming him Esteban, a name given to their biggest and unique hero as entailed in their various folk lore/ traditions. However, the awe and pride in such unique physique, turns into pity, when past midnight, the winds whistling die down, with the sea falling into its usual Wednesday drowsiness. This portends the nearing of the burial ceremony, and it is then that his unique attributes instead display his unfortunate predicament as being different from the rest and hence not being able to fit into their existent society. 

Marquez states that, “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…” (672). It is hence, through this realization that the local populations, and specifically so the women, are enlightened on matters strange to their socialization (customs and traditions). As such, they are of smaller stature (physique) and so pattern their way of life around this notion, which seemed inadequate to Esteban, and consequently affirms to the need for greater inclusion of foreign matters, ideals and perspectives.

Renewed Thinking

The above portrays the eventual realization that what the locals viewed as enhanced capabilities could have unfortunately been a burden to the man. Furtherance is the fact his look, of a dead man, was similar to that experienced by their men folk and hence as cultured, their tears and sighs turned to wails. This is because they eventually realize his destituteness as well as peace while in the afterlife. Pity is felt for him for he cannot be accorded the required burial rights according to his customs and hence the villagers accord him the best send-off ceremony possible. Indeed, the symbolic presence of the man brings about a renewed thinking amongst the village folk, as espoused through the phrase “Praise the Lord,' they sighed, 'he's ours!” (672)

With great ceremony is his burial conducted, with neighboring populations also participating in the elaborate funeral. The women folk, just as their men, are awe-inspired as well as full of pity for such a man, whom abandoned during his death. It is hence through this ritual that they do realize their own narrowness of their visualization as well as ideals, in comparison to the drowned stranger – Esteban. This brings about a realization that they do need to conduct their various activities, as well as aligning their way of life (cultures and traditions), with great consideration of not only those known to them, but also other strangers out their (from their world), who are aptly represented by Esteban (Marquez).

Conclusion

In conclusion, their architecture, way of thinking as well as overall culture and traditions are rejuvenated towards not only their existence, but also the unknown and hence unforeseen nature of things outside their place of existence. Thus, a wider global view in acculturated into their local narrow ideals and perspectives, resulting in a greater understanding of the overall existence of living beings not only in their surroundings but the larger global arena.

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