“They thought that he would have had so much authority that he could have drawn fish out of the sea simply by calling their names and that he would have put so much work into his land that springs would have burst forth from among the rocks so that he would have been able to plant flowers on the cliffs” (Marquez).
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Power is a social force that results from the ability of an individual to use their personal attributes in concert in order to persuade or coerce others.
Authority, Force, Destruction, Pleasure.
It is hard to maintain a meaningful distinction between the concepts of authority, force, and power while thinking about a short story written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez—The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World. The literary work describes an event that interrupts a peaceful life of a small fishing village: a discovery of a drowned man whose beauty captivates the villagers. The story is so remarkably unusual in its depiction of Esteban who by using “the hidden strengths of his heart” (Marquez) instantly becomes almost a mythical figure in minds of fishers and their wives that it forces readers to reconsider their intuitive notion of the concept of power and what it means to be powerful.
There is no need to present any documentation to support the assertion that some people are more powerful than others. Nonetheless, even though the concept of power is ancient and almost palpable—as palpable as a concept can be—it is necessary to explore it from the point of view of social theory in order to distinguish it from a phenomenon of power in nature, which can be described as the production of effects by forces of nature. According to Weber, power is one’s ability to impose their will on others against their resistance (Guzzini 4). When speaking about the concept of power Dahl posits that “A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do” (Guzzini 4). Therefore, it can be argued that the concept of power is relational in its nature since power cannot be in possession of any individual but rather exists as a manifestation of social dynamics between two or more agents. For example, a man wielding a gun can only have power if there is someone on whom he can impose his will. However, if there is no one around the armed individual he will be unable to exercise power.
It can be argued that the drowned intruder had the capacity to change the normal flow of events in the coastal village. However, even though he was in possession of a certain power, it is not clear whether his influence on people can be distinguished from that of nature. Esteban had power over villagers that can be inferred from the effect his arrival produced in the village. On the other hand, it would be unwise to call fishers and their wives power recipients since it is impossible to establish if they acted against their values and preferences when they engaged in the process of deifying the man. Since power is a manifestation of social dynamics, it can be argued that Esteban’s influence was no different from that of a force of nature. It has to do with the fact that the man was not alive; therefore, he lacked agency.
The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World is a story that allows exploring the concept of power from a new and intriguing perspective. The analysis of the literary work shows that it is impossible for a dead man to be in possession of power since he lacks the capacity for deliberate action.
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Guzzini, Stefano. Power, Realism and Constructivism. Routledge, 2013.
Marquez, Gabriel. “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World.” Utdallas, Web.