The Taste of Watermelon by Borden Deal
In The Taste of Watermelon by Borden Deal we have the theme of guilt, connection, acceptance, honesty and bravery. The story itself is a memory piece and is narrated through the eyes of a sixteen year old boy and after reading the story it becomes clear to the reader that Deal may be exploring the theme of guilt. Though the narrator felt joy when he was robbing Mr Wills’ watermelon. When he sees Mr Wills’ reaction his joy turns to guilt. Particularly when he sees Mr Wills crying. This may be important as it highlights to the reader just how important the watermelon crop was to Mr Wills. Also the watermelon took on a particular role. It was for Mrs Wills so that she should carve it up and invite the neighbours into her home. Which plays on the theme of connection. Though Mrs Wills is poorly she is still nonetheless trying to engage with others. The watermelon was the tool for this engagement. Hence Mr Wills being so upset. He knows that Mrs Wills needs company in order for her to feel a little better about herself. If anything the narrator is awash with guilt over his actions. He had no idea of just how important the watermelon was to Mr Wills. The driving factor which led to the narrator stealing the watermelon is the fact that he longs to fit in with his friends. He is new to town and he sees the watermelon as a way of fast tracking his way to acceptance and connection among his friends.
There is also a sense that though the narrator is guilty of taking Mr Will’s watermelon he is still brave enough and honest enough to tell Mr Wills. Even though the narrator is afraid of Mr Wills. It is as though the narrator realises just how much the watermelon meant to Mr Wills. What was supposed to be a practical joke has resulted in someone (Mr Wills) being offended. It is also noticeable that the narrator’s offer of help, though driven by guilt, did not have to be forthcoming. He could have quite easily have said nothing about the watermelon but instead took the right path by admitting to his guilt and trying to rectify matters. It is also interesting that the narrator and his friend’s ended up destroying more of the water melon than they ate. If anything they wasted most of the watermelon. This is interesting because one would expect the narrator and his friends to eat all of their prize. However this is not the case.
What is also interesting is how focused the narrator is. Not only when it comes to stealing the watermelon but when it comes to making amends too. Though he likes Willadean. She is not the narrator’s focus when he is talking to Mr Wills. It is as though they are having a serious conversation. A conversation that the narrator is unsure of what direction the conversation will go. He has previously seen Mr Wills angry. Hence the narrator taking his father with him when he goes to speak to Mr Wills. It might also be important that Mr Wills has calmed down. He appears to be more upset now than angry. Upset because the watermelon was for his wife. Which suggests that Mr Wills has the ability to think of others. Something he does with the narrator. Mr Wills could have scolded the narrator but instead listens to everything that he says to him. Even agreeing with allowing the narrator to plant the watermelon seeds with him the following year.
Though the narrator’s intention had been to try and fit in with his friends as quickly as possible. He has managed to fit in with Mr Wills. Who the reader suspects admires the narrator’s honesty. As mentioned the narrator could have remained quiet and nothing would have happened to him. However so overpowering was the guilt that the narrator felt as though he had to do something to rectify matters. It is also interesting that the narrator did not tell Mr Wills anything about his friends eating the watermelon. Which suggests that the narrator can be trusted. Also the narrator no longer needs to attempt to fit in with his friends. So impressed where they by his actions. Even if the narrator’s actions were wrong. However in defense of the narrator. He was not to know just how important the watermelon was to Mr and Mrs Wills. Though some critics might suggest that the narrator has gotten off lightly it might be worth noting that the narrator has swallowed his pride and faced what he has done like a man. He has matured. To such an extent that he knows what he has done is wrong and there is little chance of him doing something similar again. He has learnt how somethings can seem to be unimportant to an individual but they might mean the world to another person. As is very much the case when it came to Mr Wills watermelon. For Mr Wills the watermelon represented hope and that may be the reason as to why he was so upset about the watermelon being stolen.