Visit from an unusual stranger
In Gabriel Garcia Marquezs stories The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World and The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, two kinds of distinct strangers arrive in a small community causing speculation, doubt and fear among the members. In the two stories, both strangers present distinct characters and personalities which when steadily observed by the small community gives rise to comparison, questioning and understanding of the aura commonly shared by the two strangers. In The Handsomest Drowned Man, the dead man is viewed as being of a different appearance from that of a normal average man when they laid him on the floor, he had been taller than all other men (230) and he had the smell of the sea about him; only his shape gave one to suppose that it was the corpse of a human being(231).On the other hand, in The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, the old man has more frightening features as his enormous wings frightened by that nightmare(204) scare away Pelayo upon his first encounter.
In the The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World, the body of a dead man is brought into the community by the men of the village. This stranger already causes discomfort amongst the men of the community as the village, being of a small even setup does not call for strange alarms in their minds. And so, their discovery of this drowned man causes the alertness of fear among themselves they simply had to look at one another to see that they were all there; that night they did not go out to work at sea (231).Similarly ,In the Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, a man in the village, while returning to his house in the noon, discovers a very old man who despite of his tremendous efforts, couldnt get up, impeded by his enormous wings(203).This frightens the man who quickly runs to inform and get his wife. As they examine the body in mute stupor(204),the fear they have deep inside them begins to be wiped away overcame their surprise(204) as they come to realise that this unusual stranger is familiar.
The women in The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World begin to care for this unusual visitor by cleaning up his body and while doing this, they start to discover new things, they noticed that the vegetation on him came from faraway oceans and deep water (231). Pride (231) here, is the word used to describe how this drowned man took his death. His appearance to them was not perceived to be that of other lonely drowned men who came out of the sea. To them this man was one who would leave you breathless (231), a man who every woman longed for. The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, portrays this unusual man with strange features from the usual average man. He is described as having huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked (204).The language he spoke is also described as dialect (204), a language different from the standard.Pelayo and his wife conclude then that this unusual man is a lonely castaway(204),one not from their own land. Despite their conclusion, their doubt is not yet satisfied and so after calling a neighbour woman who knew everything about life and death (204), their attitude towards this stranger is of hostility as she enlightens them that this angel, must have been coming for their child (204).
More new discoveries continue to unveil in the Handsomest Drowned Man in the World as the women in the village continue to take care of their unusual stranger. The unusual huge size of his body fascinates them such that they decide to make him some pants from a large piece of sail (232). As they continue wandering about this stranger, it occurs to them that that even the wind had never been so steady nor the sea as restless as on that night (232).This tranquility here, was attributed to the presence of this dead man. They begin to imagine what kind of life the man would have led had he been alive. To them, this man would have been of great perfection, a man whose house would have had the widest doors, highest ceiling and strongest floor (232) and the happiest woman as his wife. Comparing secretly to their own men, this man would have possessed a strong kind of authority that could have drawn fish out of the sea simply by calling their names. However, this high praise they had for this unusual stranger is not how they regarded their own men; theirs were incapable of all this great perfection. As majority of these women continued to wander through this maze of fantasy, the oldest woman among them, looked upon the drowned man with compassion than passion (232).At this realisation, the other women had to take another look to agree with the older woman that this man was Esteban (232), a man who they pitied; it was then that they understood how unhappy he must have been with the huge body since it bothered him even after death (233).At this moment, which was night, the womens view of this stranger now changed, they could now see him in life condemned to going through doors sideways, remaining on his feet during visits and him leaning against the wall,smiling,dont bother,maam(233).Here, he is seen as a man who was embarrassed with himself being of unusual size from every other human being. This thought now brought more sadness in these women who began weeping greatly as this unusual perfect stranger was becoming all the more Esteban, the most destitute, most obliging man on earth (233).
However Pelayos insecurity towards this strange man in his community cannot be compared to that of the man in the Handsomest drowned man in the World who is better treated. Despite him getting an opinion from his neighbour woman, her judgement does not change his fears, he watched over him all afternoon, armed with his bailiffs club(204).The man here, is kept in a chicken coop(205) where he is locked with intentions of hiding him away from the world. However when Pelayo and Elisendas child wakes up without its fever, the couple feel magnanimous(204) and think his presence could have something to do with this new development and so they decided to put the angel on a raft with fresh water and provisions for three days and leave him to his fate on the high seas(204).This however was a failed attempt to get rid of this angel who becomes a resort for entertainment for the whole neighbourhood in front of the chicken coop having fun without the slightest reverence(205).They begin to think of him as, mayor of the world while others of sterner mind felt that he should be promoted to rank of five-star general(205).A parish priest who comes to view this stranger, sees him as an imposter as he did not understand the language of God; also seen up close he was much too human and nothing about him measured up to the proud dignity of angels(205).After his own analysis, the priest then tries to relay his thoughts on this stranger to the community,however,his prudence fell on sterile hearts(206).The presence of this stranger, continues to stirrup the communitys attention who in great multitudes continue to visit Pelayos home to get a glimpse of this being. The great strain this bustle of a marketplace (206), has on Elisenda, gives her the idea of fencing in the yard and charging five cents admission to see the angel(206).This brings great benefit to this couple, for in less than a week they had crammed their rooms with money(206).
The revelation the men in The Handsomest Drowned man in the world bring to their women about this stranger brings an opening of jubilation in the midst of their tears (234).The womens attitudes baffle the men who only see it as womanish frivolity (234) as their intention is only to get read of this stranger. However as they prepare to do this, one of the women, mortified by so much luck of care, then removed the handkerchief from the dead mans face and the men were left breathless too (234).They too saw the sincerity that occurred in this stranger and it is then that they held the most splendid funeral (235) for this abandoned drowned man. The presence of this man brought to them the realisation that everything would be different from then on. This would then leave them with their genuine duty to preserve the memory of this unusual noble stranger. In comparison withThe Very Old Man with enormous wings , the strangers reputation, is brought down by consolation miracles (208) which are more mockery.Pelayos house returns to its old state being as empty as during the time it had rained for three day (208).However this brought no reason for this family to lament (208) as the riches they acquired during the presence of this stranger brought more happiness to their lives. During the last few days before his depature, the stranger continues to exhibit his stranger characteristics until the time he disappears in Elisendas sight and to her, he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea (210).