The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

by

Gabriel Garcia Márquez

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The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Gabriel Garcia Márquez's The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Gabriel Garcia Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez spent the first eight years of his life in Aracataca, a city in a rural region of Colombia. Soon after he was born, his father became a pharmacist and moved with his wife to a nearby city, leaving the young Gabriel with his maternal grandparents. García Márquez’s early development was considerably influenced by his unique, rural upbringing and the personalities of his grandparents—his grandfather, who was known as “the Colonel,” was an excellent storyteller, and his grandmother, a superstitious woman, would often narrate events about the supernatural as though they were fully real. After moving to Bogotá, García Márquez began his studies in law, but he became increasingly interested in fiction and journalism. He started his career as a journalist while pursuing these studies, primarily covering domestic political events. The events he covered as a journalist, particularly La Violencia and the 1958 Venezuelan coup d’etat, strongly impacted his perspective. His commentary on these critical events appears in many of his writings. In 1967, García Márquez published his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, which was widely read and received worldwide acclaim. In 1982, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, a recognition of his rich realization of the fantastical. He continued to write celebrated short stories, novels, and works of non-fiction until late in his life. After fighting with a misdiagnosed cancer for many years, he died of pneumonia in 2014.   
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Historical Context of The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

The historical setting of “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” is only vaguely defined. The central village of the story appears to exist in relative isolation, interacting only with neighboring villages. For this reason, it is difficult to place the setting of the story into an exact geographical and historical context. However, García Márquez’s perspective and writing were strongly inflected by his experience with La Violencia, a decade-long civil war in Colombia. The brutal rural fighting and censorship that occurred during this conflict impacted García Márquez’s understanding of the importance of community, as well as his view of the purpose of his work.   

Other Books Related to The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

“The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” is an example of magical realism, a genre in which fantastical events are mixed with the everyday. Magical realism is strongly connected with the Latin American Boom, a proliferation of acclaimed literature written by Latin writers in the 20th century. García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, Alejo Carpentier’s book The Kingdom of this World, and Jorge Luis Borges’s collection A Universal History of Infamy are some of the landmark examples of the genre and movement. García Márquez’s literary style was deeply influenced by several earlier works in the western literary tradition. In particular, García Márquez was formatively impacted by Kafka and his novel The Metamorphosis, which he read as a young writer. García Márquez has also acknowledged the influence of Faulkner and the mythohistoric qualities of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawtha county.
Key Facts about The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World
  • Full Title: “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” (“El ahogado más hermoso del mundo”)
  • When Written: 1967
  • Where Written: Barcelona, Spain
  • When Published: 1967
  • Literary Period: 20th century Latin American fiction
  • Genre: Magical realism
  • Setting: A tiny coastal village on a cliff face
  • Climax: The handsome drowned man is elaborately buried by the villagers, and they vow to redesign their village to honor his memory.
  • Point of View: Omniscient third person

Extra Credit for The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

Solitude. Solitude is a theme that pervades much of García Márquez’s work, including “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World.” He titled his Nobel Prize acceptance speech “The Solitude of Latin America,” and in his speech, he explains that the solitude of the settings in his works reflects the political solitude of Latin America.

Detail Aversion. García Márquez was known to purposefully leave out important details in his writing in order to force the reader to actively interpret the narrative. García Márquez was influenced in this stylistic decision by his reading of Greek tragedies such as Oedipus Rex and Antigone