The Taste of Watermelon

by

Borden Deal

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Mr. Wills Character Analysis

Mr. Wills is the best and most intimidating farmer in the community. While he can grow anything on his land, his method of farming involves yelling and “fight[ing] the earth.” Combined with his large physical stature, this behavior makes him seem terrifying to his neighborhood, including the narrator and his two best friends. The summer the story takes place, Mr. Wills is growing the biggest watermelon the community has ever seen, and he is very protective of it, standing guard over it every night with his shotgun instead of letting teenage boys raid his watermelon patch as the other farmers do. The narrator’s parents criticize him for watching over the watermelon more than his own wife, who is sick and rarely ever leaves the house. The community also gossips that he fills his shotgun with buckshot, which could kill, rather than the salt pellets farmers usually use. However, after the narrator steals Mr. Wills’s watermelon, Mr. Wills reveals the reason for his vigilance over the melon: he had planned to give it to Mrs. Wills, who in turn had planned to give it out to the entire neighborhood in an effort to make friends. In a devastated rage, Mr. Wills destroys the entire watermelon patch. But the next morning, when the narrator apologizes for stealing the watermelon, Mr. Wills is no longer angry. Instead, he expresses how hurt he is by the narrator’s actions, and he admits his own shame at having destroyed the rest of the watermelons the night before. He then asks the narrator to help out on his farm next year, since the narrator’s own father does not farm. In this way, Mr. Wills becomes a role model for the narrator by the end of the story, showing the importance of not judging people too quickly.

Mr. Wills Quotes in The Taste of Watermelon

The The Taste of Watermelon quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Wills or refer to Mr. Wills. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Cambridge University Press edition of The Taste of Watermelon published in 2018.
The Taste of Watermelon Quotes

Mr. Wills was the best farmer in the community. My father said he could drive a stick into the ground and grow a tree out of it. But it wasn’t an easy thing with him. Mr. Wills fought the earth when he worked it. When he plowed his fields, you could hear him yelling for a mile. It was as though he dared the earth not to yield him its sustenance.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mr. Wills
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:

It surged up out of me – not the idea of making my name for years to come by such a deed, but the feeling that there was a rightness in defying the world and Mr. Wills.

Mixed up with it all there came into my mouth the taste of watermelon. I could taste the sweet red juices oozing over my tongue, I could feel the delicate threaded redness of the heart as I squeezed the juices out.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mr. Wills
Related Symbols: Watermelon
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Wills was tearing up and down the melon patch, and I was puzzled by his actions. Then I saw; he was destroying every melon in the patch. He was breaking them open with his feet, silent now, concentrating on his frantic destruction. I was horrified by the awful sight, and my stomach moved sickly.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mr. Wills
Related Symbols: Watermelon
Page Number: 305
Explanation and Analysis:

Watermelon raiding was a game, a ritual of defiance and rebellion by young males. I could remember my own father saying, “No melon tastes as sweet as a stolen melon,” and my mother laughing and agreeing.

But stealing this great seed melon from a man like Mr. Wills lay outside the safe magic of the tacit understanding between man and boy.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mr. Wills
Related Symbols: Watermelon
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:

“I’m about as ashamed of myself last night as you are of yourself,” Mr. Wills said. He frowned at me with his heavy brows. “You ruined the half of it, and I ruined the other. We’re both to blame, boy. Both to blame.”

Related Characters: Mr. Wills (speaker), The Narrator
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:

He broke the shell in his strong fingers and poured the white salt out into his palm.

“You see?” he said.

“Yes, Sir,” I said, taking a deep breath. “I see.”

I went on, then, and the next year started that very day.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mr. Wills (speaker)
Related Symbols: Shotgun
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Taste of Watermelon LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Taste of Watermelon PDF

Mr. Wills Character Timeline in The Taste of Watermelon

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Wills appears in The Taste of Watermelon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Taste of Watermelon
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Illicit Sexuality and Acceptable Romance Theme Icon
...But they do not talk much to her because they are afraid of Willadean’s father, Mr. Wills , who is a big, terrifying man with fierce eyes. (full context)
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Mr. Wills is the best farmer in the community, but he does not make it look easy.... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
...the game if you step on a lot of melons, destroying the farmer’s crop. But Mr. Wills “[doesn’t] think that way.” (full context)
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Illicit Sexuality and Acceptable Romance Theme Icon
Mr. Wills is growing the biggest watermelon anyone has ever seen, right in the middle of his... (full context)
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
The narrator and his parents often watch Mr. Wills guarding his watermelon at night and gossip about it. His father thinks it is silly... (full context)
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Freddy Gray says no one would dare steal Mr. Wills ’s watermelon on a bright night like this, and J.D. says that on his walk... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Illicit Sexuality and Acceptable Romance Theme Icon
The thought of the buckshot in Mr. Wills ’s gun bothers the narrator: who would kill someone over a watermelon? Freddy Gray wonders... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
...stop... Besides, [he doesn’t] want to.” The narrator leads the way to the edge of Mr. Wills ’s watermelon patch, where they hide behind willow trees and watch Mr. Wills sitting in... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
...terrapin for the job, outside as well as inside.” At every move, the narrator expects Mr. Wills to see him, but the tall grass covers him. Finally, he reaches the enormous watermelon,... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...the watermelon but decides he needs to actually take it. So he breaks the stem. Mr. Wills yawns. The narrator shoves the melon back through the path in the grass he made... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
...has been, and the narrator tells him he was swimming. The narrator looks over at Mr. Wills ’s barn and sees Mr. Wills in the field under the moonlight. He watches as... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Mr. Wills tells them that he had been planning to give the watermelon to his wife, who... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
...he walks towards the swimming hole, where the wasted watermelon greets him, reminding him of Mr. Wills ’s destructive rampage last night. He collects all the watermelon seeds he can find in... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Willadean opens the door and fetches Mr. Wills , who appears in the doorway looking tired from the night. He asks absentmindedly what... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Mr. Wills tells the narrator that he also feels ashamed of his actions last night, since they... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Illicit Sexuality and Acceptable Romance Theme Icon
...starts to turn around to go home, but realizes he has one last question for Mr. Wills . “Was there double-ought buckshot in that gun?” Mr. Wills picks up the gun and... (full context)