illustrated portrait of American author Kate Chopin

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What kind of assumptions can be made about Babette's past in "Ripe Figs"?

An assumption that can be made about Babette's past is that her parents are no longer in her life; this is evidenced because Babette is living with her godmother. It can also be assumed that she and Maman-Nainaine are Acadians living in Louisiana with enough means to live comfortably.

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In Kate Chopin's 1892 short story "Ripe Figs," very little is made explicit about the two characters, Babette and Maman-Nainaine. The term "Maman-Nainaine" translates to grandmother, but Chopin makes explicit that the woman is Babette's godmother. In a secular sense, a godmother traditionally takes over the parenting role if something happens to the parents. In a religious sense, a godmother traditionally plays a role in a child's religious upbringing.

Because there is no mention of Babette's parents or religion, it seems safe to assume that neither of her parents are present in her life. And, because Maman-Nainaine speaks about a late summer/early fall visit to her cousins and aunt, it seems that she has custody of Babette and plans for her future.

Babette and her godmother live in Louisiana, as suggested by the title of the anthology of stories "Ripe Figs" is from: A Night in Acadie. The French quality of their names further suggests Acadian heritage, meaning they are descended from French Canadians who were deported from Canada in the mid eighteenth century to southern Louisiana and eventually came to be known as Cajuns.

It also seems safe to assume that there is at least some money in Babette's family. Her godmother dresses and acts in a stately manner, and she has land on which to grow figs and chrysanthemums. Babette arranges the figs on a porcelain platter, and Maman-Nainaine cuts them with a silver fruit-knife. Her cousins live on Bayou-Lafourche, a region known for its agricultural abundance, and Maman-Nainaine plans to travel there for Toussaint, or All-Saints Day, on November 1.

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