The Taste of Watermelon

by

Borden Deal

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The Narrator Character Analysis

The story’s narrator is a sixteen-year-old boy who has just moved to a rural Southern community, and the story traces his coming of age. In the beginning, he still feels like an outsider to his town, and he’s trying to fit in with his new friends, Freddy Gray and J.D. who seem skeptical of him. Like his two friends, he has a crush on Willadean, his sixteen-year-old neighbor. One late summer night, in a youthful act of bravado, the narrator decides to rebel against the terrifying Mr. Wills, Willadean’s father, who he thinks is a cruel and irrationally angry man. He does so by stealing Mr. Willis’s prized “seed watermelon,” the biggest watermelon the community has ever seen. Only after eating the watermelon with his friends does the narrator begin to understand the consequences of his actions; Mr. Willis is so distraught that he destroys the rest of his crop before revealing that he had planned to give the watermelon to the ailing Mrs. Wills in order to cheer her up. Ashamed, the narrator retreats to his room and realizes that he stole the watermelon out of an immature desire to fit in with his friends and impress Willadean. The next morning, the narrator decides to try to repair the damage, and he collects the watermelon seeds and gives them back to Mr. Wills, despite his fear of Mr. Wills’s anger. Mr. Wills forgives him and asks that the narrator make amends by working on his farm the next year, and the narrator readily agrees. By the end of his character arc, the narrator has learned the importance of thoughtfulness, hard work, and honesty.

The Narrator Quotes in The Taste of Watermelon

The The Taste of Watermelon quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator or refer to The Narrator. 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

She was my age, nearly as tall as I, and up to the year before, Freddy Gray told me, she had been good at playing Gully Keeper and Ante-Over. But she didn’t play such games this year. She was tall and slender, and Freddy Gray and J.D. and I had several discussions about the way she walked.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Willadean
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

The moon floated up into the sky, making everything almost as bright as day, but at the same time softer and gentler than ever daylight could be. It was the kind of night when you felt you can do anything in the world, even boldly asking Willadean Wills for a date. On a night like that, you couldn’t help but feel that she’d gladly accept.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Willadean
Related Symbols: Moon
Page Number: 302
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:

I met a terrapin taking a bite out of a small melon. Terrapins love watermelon, better than boys do. I touched him on the shell and whispered, “Hello, brother,” but he didn’t acknowledge my greeting. He just drew into his shell. I went on, wishing I was equipped like a terrapin for the job, outside as well as inside.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:

We gorged ourselves until we were heavy... We gazed with sated eyes at the leftover melon, still good meat peopled with a multitude of black seeds...

“There’s nothing we can do,” J.D. said. “I can just see us taking a piece of this melon home for the folks...”

We were depressed suddenly, it was such a waste, after all the struggle and the danger, that we could not eat every bite. I stood up, not looking at the two boys, not looking at the melon.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Freddy Gray, J.D.
Related Symbols: Watermelon
Page Number: 304
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

The Narrator Character Timeline in The Taste of Watermelon

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator 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
The Narrator ’s family has recently moved from town to a farming community. He has friends in... (full context)
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Illicit Sexuality and Acceptable Romance Theme Icon
...them enter the patch. All the boys in the area daydream about stealing it, including the narrator , Freddy Gray, and J.D. But they don’t actually plan on doing it, not only... (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... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Illicit Sexuality and Acceptable Romance Theme Icon
...illuminating everything in a light almost as bright as daylight but softer. The night makes the narrator feel like he could do anything. Freddy Gray says he would like to take Willadean... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
The narrator tells his friends that the night is so bright he could read a newspaper. Then... (full context)
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
...he saw Mr. Wills guarding the melon anyway, with his “shotgun loaded with double-ought buckshot.” The narrator is astounded: double-ought buckshot “would kill a man.” But his friends assure him that it’s... (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 why the narrator is... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
The narrator tells his friends he intends to steal the watermelon that very night. They protest, telling... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
The narrator enters the patch by crawling flat on his stomach, looking back once at his friends’... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...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 crawling into the... (full context)
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Illicit Sexuality and Acceptable Romance Theme Icon
...melon down, panting. Excited, they decide to eat it before someone finds them with it. The narrator “penetrates” it with his pocket knife, which he thinks is more respectful than bashing it... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Illicit Sexuality and Acceptable Romance Theme Icon
...can’t share the watermelon with anyone else, they become depressed at all the wasted melon. The narrator says that he has to go home, and he begins to stomp on the leftover... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
When he gets home, his father asks him where he has been, and the narrator tells him he was swimming. The narrator looks over at Mr. Wills’s barn and sees... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
The narrator follows his father into the watermelon patch, passing Mrs. Wills and Willadean, who are huddled... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
...year. Every day, his wife would ask him if the giant melon was ripe yet. The narrator looks at the two women standing in the doorway and runs home, straight to his... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
...home, his father asks him if he was afraid of Mr. Wills last night, and the narrator responds by asking his father to come over to Mr. Wills’s house with him immediately.... (full context)
Coming of Age and Masculinity Theme Icon
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon
Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
...Wills, who appears in the doorway looking tired from the night. He asks absentmindedly what the narrator wants. Full of fear, the narrator holds out the bag of seeds, telling him that... (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 both ruined the... (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
Agreeing, the narrator looks again at Willadean, whose eyes are now smiling, and feels his heart beat in... (full context)