The Taste of Watermelon


Borden Deal

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Taste of Watermelon, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Coming of Age and Masculinity

In “The Taste of Watermelon,” the 16-year-old narrator comes of age, particularly by finding a way to belong to the world of men. At the beginning of the story, the narrator and his two friends are still boys. They’re interested in dating their neighbor, Willadean Wills, but they never talk to her because they are afraid of her father. And they are “still young enough” that they seek the security of belonging in a…

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Rushing to Judgment

Through the hidden kindness of Mr. Wills, “The Taste of Watermelon” suggests that people are not always what they seem. The sixteen-year-old narrator and his family have recently moved next door to Mr. Wills, an intimidating and talented farmer. He is a big man who seems quick to anger, and he never visits with anyone in the community, which others find weird. For this reason, when Mr. Wills obsessively guards an especially large watermelon

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Exclusion, Cruelty, and Belonging

Many characters in “The Taste of Watermelon” struggle to feel included in the rural farming community where the story is set. The sixteen-year-old narrator feels like an outsider even among his two best friends, as he moved there only a year before the events of the story, and his friends still seem skeptical of him. The Wills family also seem to be outsiders in the community, as they do not socialize much with their neighbors…

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“The taste of Watermelon” examines the morality of a small farming community. At the beginning of the story, the narrator believes that his neighbor, Mr. Wills, is acting immorally, because he won’t allow teenage boys to steal watermelons from his field, a commonly accepted “rite of passage” in the community. The narrator’s parents support this notion, criticizing Mr. Wills for protecting his watermelon patch so obsessively. However, after stealing Mr. Wills’s giant watermelon

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Illicit Sexuality and Acceptable Romance

In “The Taste of Watermelon,” the narrator navigates his budding sexuality within the strict moral codes of the farming community where his family has recently relocated. The narrator and his two friends share a common romantic interest in Willadean, a neighbor whose father, Mr. Wills, terrifies them. In part to impress Willadean, the narrator steals Mr. Wills’s “seed watermelon,” the biggest watermelon ever grown in the community, and his two friends eat…

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