In Watermelon Sugar

by Richard Brautigan

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 264

In Watermelon Sugar is a delightfully strange and compelling novel that has been interpreted in several ways. As such, people find different themes throughout the novel. Some themes that I see as present in the book are youth idealism, anti-capitalism, communal living, and utopia/dystopia.

In In Watermelon Sugar, youth idealism is represented through young people who are attempting to create another world out of the ashes of the old. This book, written in the 1960s, certainly alludes to the social and rebellious youth movements of the time.

Anti-capitalism themes are present through the depiction of the "Forgotten Works". The Forgotten Works is an area that contains remnants of the old civilization. Residents of the commune iDEATH are strongly encouraged to not visit the Forgotten Works and are warned that they may become completely lost if they do. This alludes to the capitalist way of life that often turns people into materialistic consumers who lose themselves in the process of valuing things over community, sharing, and life in general.

Communal living is represented in the novel through the communal life depicted on iDEATH, in which residents share life on a commune together and process watermelon sugar to build their world. The commune is depicted beautifully and colorfully. However, there are odd elements of the commune that present some dystopic elements. For instance, commune members are not encouraged to pursue artistic or creative endeavors, which are fairly important to living a robust and meaningful life. iDEATH juxtaposes dystopic and utopic elements and shows that there is no such thing as purely good or purely bad.

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