Not much happens in Kate Chopin’s, “Ripe Figs” (Barnet 3). As we learn that maturity is a natural process of life that occurs very quickly and it is a beautiful process. In the story, Babette represents youth’s impatience with her struggle to mature, and Maman-Nainaine represents a mature response to the passage of time. Babette anticipates her visit to her cousins on the Bayou-Lafourche, once the figs are ripe, at her godmother’s request. As time passes slowly for Babette, Maman-Nainaine asks her to be patient with the “ripening” of the figs. In this story, Chopin allows the reader to consider a very close relationship between human nature’s internal clock and Mother Nature’s time table. They are both related to the process of growth that we often rush and we are not always patient enough to wait for things to happen at the right time.
Maman-Nainaine informs Babette that she may visit her cousins in Bayou-Lafourche once the figs have ripened. It is clear that Babette finds it difficult to wait patiently until the harvest at the end of summer. This can be read in the next line, “Every day Babette danced out to where the fig-trees were in a long line against the fence” (4). Although, she knows she will have to wait patiently as her godmother told her, she can not help, but continuously check the figs every single day, only to find disappointment as “each time she came disconsolate” (5). This means that Babette is not ready yet, she still has some growing up to do. Babette’s impatience is very clear, especially because she seems to believe that she can speed up nature’s ability to grow.
On the other hand, Maman-Nainaine is very patient and she can wait whatever amount of time is necessary for the figs to ripe. She is “as patient as the statue of la Modone” (3), displaying herself as a calm and content person who can wait patiently for the right time. Babette’s inability to wait is also demonstrated as she is described being “restless as a hummingbird” (3). This displays Babette’s unwillingness to sit still; it is showing what her impatience is doing to her.
Through these characters, Chopin reveals the truth about patience. When we have the ability to be patient, time seems to move quickly, but when we do not, it passes at a slow pace. For Maman-Nainaine, the fig season went by fast: “Ah, how early the figs have ripened this year!” (5). As for Babette, time passed slowly as she is quick to answer to Maman-Nainaine, “Oh,…I think they have ripened very late” (6). It is difficult for Babette to understand the process of growth and maturity as she is challenged to wait for the figs to ripen, but she may soon be able to understand that everything in life comes at its own pace.
According to Maman-Nainaine, Babette must appreciate the gifts life has to offer her and realize that life is a process of continuous change, but with patience we grow to be beautiful individuals, like the figs “fringed around with their rich green leaves” (5). With the guidance of Maman-Nainaine, Babette learns the true meaning of patience as she makes an important change from youth to maturity because she waited for the figs to ripen.
Chopin, Kate. “Ripe Figs.” Literature for Composition, 8th ed. Eds. Sylvan Barnet et al.
New York: PearsonLongman, 2007. 3-4.