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What symbolism is present in "Ripe Figs" by Kate Chopin?

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Kate Chopin uses imagery of figs, movement, and appearance to depict important concerns of time, age, and maturity in “Ripe Figs.” Through the ripening of figs, Chopin illustrates the passage of time as well as the different perspectives that young and old have on the passage of time. She also contrasts Maman-Nainaine and Babette’s behavior and appearances. At the end, Chopin introduces chrysanthemum imagery to illustrate the older woman’s desire to mark and slow down time.

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The ripe figs seem to symbolize the idea that there is a good time for everything, and everything happens in its own good time. We cannot force the figs to ripen sooner than they will; they will ripen when they are ready, and not a moment before. Similarly, we ought to do things and experience things when we are ready and not try to rush ahead. Maman-Nainaine, for example, tells Babette that she can go for her visit when the figs are ripe; it seems that she does not want to let Babette go until that time. Perhaps the weather is too unpredictable before then, or perhaps she wants to give Babette a little more time to mature and grow up before her trip. Ultimately, Babette feels that the figs have ripened late this year, while Maman-Nainaine feels that they've ripened early; the youthful tend to feel like time moves more slowly than those with more years, and so their opposing perceptions make sense. Often, youth are anxious to grow up, making the time seem to go slower, while older people feel time moving swiftly and their children becoming independent adults. Thus, the "ripe figs" are good reminders of this for both Babette and Maman-Nainaine.

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This is an excellent short short story by one of the best short story writers ever, in my opinion, and if we want to consider symbolism, one way to do it would be to consider the ripe figs of the title themselves and how they operate symbolically in this tale of youthful impatience versus a more mature approach to time. It is the ripening of the figs that Maman-Nainaine choses as a natural time marker of when Babette can go and visit her cousins and, amusingly, at the end, we see that the ripening of figs is not the only natural time marker that Maman-Nainaine uses to plan her life:

"And tell your tante Frosine I shall look for her at Toussaint--when the chrysanthemums are in bloom."

Thus we are presented with a woman who is so in touch with nature that she uses the variosu seasons and the way that nature responds to rule her own life. The "ripe figs" become then a symbol of a life lived in harmony with nature and ruled by it.

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What is the theme of "Ripe Figs" by Kate Chopin?

Another theme of this story is that patience can be taught. Young people can struggle with patience, and this is the case with Babette; older folks tend to have a bit more patience because they have the experience to know that time moves more quickly as we age. This is supported by Maman-Nainaine's assertion that the figs have ripened early and Babette's response that it feels as though they have ripened late. For Babette, then, the time has passed slowly, but for Maman-Nainaine, it has gone by quickly.

In addition, the similes used to describe them help us to really see the difference between the goddaughter and godmother in the story's beginning:

Maman-Naiaine was as patient as the statue of la Madone, and Babette as restless as a hummingbird.

We might imagine Maman-Naiaine as very still and contrasting significantly with Babette who is compared to a hummingbird, something that moves so fast that it can appear blurry to our eyes! However, by the story's end, Babette is able to wait through the entire day that she discovers the ripe figs, until the next morning. She patiently waits until Maman-Naiaine is seated and ready to eat, and then she brings "a dainty porcelain platter, which she set down before her godmother. It contained a dozen purple figs, fringed around with their rich, green leaves." It is in this quiet and still way that she lets her godmother know that the figs are ripe. We see that the lesson has worked and Babette has learned some patience: she did not sprint home from the trees the day before and shout her joy. She was able to delay and present proof of the figs, beautifully arrayed, and this helps to demonstrate her growth.

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What is the theme of "Ripe Figs" by Kate Chopin?

The theme of "Ripe Figs" is that human maturity is related to the seasons of the year, a process that cannot be hastened.

In Kate Chopin's story, the young character Babette wants to go to Bayou LaFourche to visit her cousins, but Maman Nainaine insists that she wait until the figs ripen. Babette, of course, is impatient and watches the green figs each day, hoping that they will soon change their color so that she can depart:

She walked slowly beneath them, carefully peering between gnarled spreading branches.

Each time she comes out, she is dispirited. Finally, Babette comes to Maman Nainaine and shows her a dozen purple figs on a porcelain platter. Maiman Nainaine exclaims that the figs have ripened so early, but Babette insists that they have ripened late. This is the contrast between youth and maturity: the concept of time is different. Hence, the stipulation that Babette wait until the figs mature. For, watching the figs mature may have encouraged patience.

Then, Maman Nainaine takes her knife to the ripened fig, and as she peels it, she tells Babette to give her love to all her cousins. By forcing Babette to pay attention to the maturation of the fig, Maman Nainaine, perhaps, hopes to teach Babette to follow the pattern she has watched and allow time for things to come about.

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How does Kate Chopin use imagery to depict important concerns in “Ripe Figs”?

In the short story "Ripe Figs," Chopin demonstrates different perspectives on the passage time. Time seems to pass slowly for young Babette; on the other hand, time seems to pass quickly for her godmother Maman-Nainaine. Through visual, tactile, and gustatory imagery, Chopin examines the characters’ interests with and relationship to time.

The ripening of figs marks the passage of time. Babette is impatient for the figs to mature so that she can see her cousins. Her godmother models and stresses patience by allowing the figs to ripen according to their natural schedule of development.

Early in the summer,

the leaves upon the trees were tender yet, and the figs were like little hard, green marbles.

These images evoke the girl’s youthful state. The “tender” leaves are delicate and immature. Similarly, the fruits themselves are small and not yet developed. Babette must obey her godmother’s command to wait, to her a “hard” rule like the “hard” figs. Their comparison to “marbles” or toys remind the reader that Babette is still a child. The passage of time allows for readers to feel the nurturing elements—“warm rains” and “strong sunshine" —that feed the figs.

Chopin contrasts the godmother’s maturity with the goddaughter’s restlessness through visual imagery:

Maman-Nainaine was as patient as the statue of la Madone, and Babette as restless as a humming-bird

The godmother is calm and worthy of reverence like the Madonna. She moves in a “stately” manner and appears holy with an “aureole about her white, placid face.” On the other hand, the girl dances and flits about nervously like a humming bird, anxiously checking on the figs’ progress each day.

When the figs finally ripen, Babette triumphantly presents them on a platter for her godmother:

a dozen purple figs, fringed around with their rich, green leaves.

No longer small, hard, and green, the soft figs are now purple and ready to eat. They look luscious and mouthwatering. Their “tender” leaves have grown “rich.” Maman-Nainaine savors the fruit by carefully peeling

the very plumpest figs with her pointed silver fruit-knife

The godmother shows reverence for the mature fruit and uses a decorative, almost ceremonial “silver fruit-knife” to skin them. She appreciates time and patience, as it brings rewards, such as a delicious treat to be enjoyed. To her, the figs have ripened early. As an older person, time seem to pass quickly.

To the younger and more impatient Babette, however, the figs have ripened “very late.” Time passes more slowly for the young.

Finally, the older woman continues to mark time with plants; she will not see Babette’s aunt until chrysanthemums—an autumn flower—are in bloom. She does not rush time and action like the young girl does.

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