The Taste of Watermelon

by

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.
Rushing to Judgment Theme Icon

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 growing on his farm, the narrator’s family judge him for acting selfishly, assuming that he’s being needlessly possessive and that, by devoting himself to his melon, he’s neglecting his sick wife. Finally, when the narrator hears a rumor that Mr. Wills’s shotgun holds lethal bullets instead of the salt pellets farmers normally use, he feels sure that Mr. Wills is a cruel tyrant, overly protective both of his watermelon patch and his attractive teenage daughter. This motivates him to steal Mr. Wills’s prize melon, partly to rebel against his perceived cruelty.

However, the events of the story show that the narrator was wrong to assume that Mr. Wills was unkind and tyrannical. After stealing the enormous watermelon, the narrator learns that Mr. Wills was growing the watermelon for his sick wife, who was planning on sharing it with the entire neighborhood. Far from acting selfishly, Mr. Wills’s devotion to the watermelon was an act of love for his wife and an act of hope that they might become woven into the wider community. The family’s antisocial nature turns out to be due to Mrs. Wills’s illness and Mr. Wills’s overwork, as he does not have a son to help out on the farm. Ultimately, when the narrator admits to his crime, Mr. Wills forgives him readily, reveals that his gun was only filled with salt pellets, and suggests that the narrator repay him by helping him farm next year. In this way, the story reveals that superficial judgments often hide a more complex truth—perceived villains might simply be misunderstood.

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Rushing to Judgment ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Rushing to Judgment appears in each chapter of The Taste of Watermelon. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Rushing to Judgment Quotes in The Taste of Watermelon

Below you will find the important quotes in The Taste of Watermelon related to the theme of Rushing to Judgment.
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:

“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: