Can anyone provide a critical analysis of the short story "The Taste of Watermelon" by Borden Deal?

The short story "The Taste of Watermelon" by Borden Deal is about the narrator stealing Mr. Wills' "seed melon," in order to prove his manhood to his friends. The narrator and Mr. Wills are able to reconcile their differences, when Mr. Wills realizes that the seed melon was meant for his wife, who loves the taste of watermelon.

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Mississippi writer Borden Deal’s “The Taste of Watermelon” (1979) can be critically analyzed as a meditation on ideas about manhood, guilt, and the power of empathy. The sixteen-year-old narrator, new to a watermelon-growing countryside town, is eager to fit in with his new group of friends and is also navigating...

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Mississippi writer Borden Deal’s “The Taste of Watermelon” (1979) can be critically analyzed as a meditation on ideas about manhood, guilt, and the power of empathy. The sixteen-year-old narrator, new to a watermelon-growing countryside town, is eager to fit in with his new group of friends and is also navigating the transition between boyhood and manhood. He and his friends have a crush on his neighbor Willadeen, a classmate who has begun to “walk differently” over the course of one season. But asking Willadeen out on a date is daunting, because her father is mustached Mr Wills, the most feared farmer in their town, rumored to guard both his daughter and his outstanding watermelon crop with a gun filled with buckshot.

For the narrator, Mr. Wills begin to symbolize a potent masculine power to which he does not have access. Keeper of ripe watermelons and a beautiful daughter, Mr. Wills represents the manhood that still evades the narrator. Thus, the image of Mr Wills holding the gun—another symbol of masculine power—begins to haunt the narrator. He needs to emasculate Mr. Wills to prove his own manhood to himself and his peers. Thus, he steals Mr. Wills’ biggest melon—the seed melon from which he hopes to grow next year’s crop—in plain sight on a night of the full moon.

Though the narrator fulfills the promise of his bravado by stealing, eating, and then wrecking the watermelon, the action does not bring him or his friends a sense of triumph or peace. Thus, Deal suggests that the narrator’s notions about masculinity are misguided and that there is more to being a man than simply stealing power. As Mr. Wills lets out a primal scream of rage and frustration when he discovers the theft, the narrator feels paralyzed by guilt. In a paroxysm of grief, Mr. Wills starts to destroy his watermelon patch, revealing to the narrator and his father that the reason he prized the giant watermelon was that he hoped to feed it to his ailing wife, who loves the taste of the fruit. Shaken by the realization that Mr. Wills is no ogre, but a complex human being like him, the narrator is at a moment of crisis.

Empathy and redefined masculinity come to the narrator’s rescue. Embodying the notion of honor and a deeper bravery, he collects the seeds from the watermelon’s wreckage and brings them to Mr. Wills, admitting his crime. Though Mr. Wills is angry that seeds for next year will not bring back this season’s crop, he forgives the narrator, thus uniting the story’s themes of true masculinity, empathy, and redemption. However, through the story questions certain notions of masculine power, it preserves others. Willadean, whose name itself is a derivative of her father’s, has little agency in the story, and Mr. Wills expresses explicit disappointment that he does not have a son to manage his large farm. Though the feel-good end vindicates notions of goodness and honor, the sphere of their practice largely includes only men.

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"The Taste of Watermelon" is a coming-of-age story about a sixteen year-old-boy who goes a long way in maturing from a boy to a man in the course of one evening in which he steals a watermelon.

The narrator is a newcomer to a farming town. Watermelon stealing is a time-honored activity for teenage boys and is not even really considered stealing. The narrator and his two friends look longing at a giant watermelon, the biggest ever seen growing in the middle of Mr. Wills's watermelon patch, and at Mr. Wills's desirable daughter, Willadean. Because Mr. Wills is so fierce and mean, however, they are afraid to approach either of these desired objects. Mr. Wills is especially protective of his watermelon, guarding it at night with his shotgun.

Nevertheless, the narrator decides impulsively one night to steal the melon. He does so successfully, even though it had seemed to be the impossible task. He and his two friends feast on what they can of the delicious melon, but, as narrator says, the sense of glee is short lived. It turns into depression after they destroy what's left of the fruit. The narrator notes:

I did not feel triumph or victory, as I had expected

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Wills realizes his prize melon is stolen and destroys the rest of his melon patch in rage. He also cries over the loss of his melon. He had hoped it would provide seed for a great patch of giant melons.

The narrator had not anticipated Mr. Wills's grief. A teenaged boy, he had not thought through the consequences of stealing the melon. He had lived carelessly in the moment and now regrets what he had done.

As he experiences remorse, the narrator gathers up all the seeds from the watermelon he can find. With his father, he courageously goes and confesses his crime, handing the seeds to Mr. Wills. When Mr. Wills speaks of his regrets, the narrator says:

The seeds are next year.

The theme of the story is maturity. After stealing the watermelon, the narrator both realizes, and more importantly, takes responsibility for what he has done. He has the courage to confess his crime, and the wisdom to realize that bad decisions can be remedied. It's significant that the narrator repeats twice that the seeds are "next year," and offers to help Mr. Wills plant them. The narrator will right the wrong he has done.

In the course of the story, the narrator learns that its not as much fun as he thought to steal someone else's prized possession. The victory he wins is not in the successful theft, though it did take courage to steal a watermelon guarded by a fierce man with gun, which had been said to be loaded with real buckshot, not salt. The real victory comes with the realization that he hurt another person and with having the strength of character to make amends.

As he matures, the narrator also realizes that Mr. Wills is not the fearsome bogyman he once thought, a one-dimensional monster, but a compassionate, caring human being with feelings.

The story is saying that what we do matters and that how we face up to consequences of our actions matters. In the end, the narrator is rewarded with the lovely Willadean, who he has won over not through stealing, but through having the maturity to face up to his actions.

The story is idealized. The narrator is a good and sympathetic person through and through who makes a boyish mistake in high spirits. He then does the right thing. Mr. Wills also turns out to be a good person who appreciates what the narrator has done and sees his worth. The narrator has a supportive father. Willadean also likes the narrator. In really life, the consequences might not work out so neatly or so well, but it is yet heartwarming to witness this successful outcome.

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