The Ripening Seed Characters


Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Vinca Ferret

Vinca Ferret (feh-RAY), a fifteen-year-old girl who has always spent her summers in Brittany with her family and their friends, the Audeberts. Vinca is a beautiful young girl whose periwinkle-blue eyes are her most striking feature. She is a girl/woman whose behavior moves between naughty, rebellious outbursts and coquettish charm. She is in love with Philippe Audebert, and during the summer when the action of the novel takes place, she is confused about the changes in each of them, changes that affect their relationship and cause a rift in what has been a long-standing and fast friendship. She is particularly bewildered by her own newly discovered sexual desire and by Philippe’s affair with an older woman. She cannot understand why he would choose to have his first sexual encounter with someone else.

Philippe Audebert

Philippe Audebert (fee-LEEP oh-deh-BEHR), a sixteen-year-old boy who spends his summers in Brittany with his family and their friends, the Ferrets. He is slender, with a beautiful young body of firm flesh molded over taut, unobtrusive muscles. During this particular summer, he is aware of the awakening of his sexuality and of his sexual desire for Vinca, his childhood friend and the girl he knows he is destined to marry one day. He is frustrated and impatient to possess Vinca when he meets an older woman, dressed entirely in white, on the Brittany beach. Camille Dalleray introduces him to sexual pleasure, and he becomes sexually addicted to her, although he continues to love Vinca. He makes comparisons between the older woman and his inexperienced young girlfriend; these comparisons create conflicts for the young protagonist in the summer of his coming of age.

Madame Camille Dalleray

Madame Camille Dalleray (kah-MEEL dahl-REE), the Lady-in-White, who spends her summers vacationing in Brittany. She is a mythic figure, appearing entirely in white: white dress, white diamonds, and white skin. She is experienced in seduction; it is her vocation. She particularly desires boys with bodies like Greek statues. She has a dizzying effect on Philippe when they meet. When he returns to find her, she quickly and deftly seduces him, and when she decides that the affair must end, she leaves Ker-Anna, her villa in Brittany, just as quickly.

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Vinca, like many of Colette’s adolescent heroines, moves from innocence to experience. She is closely linked to the colors and objects of nature: Her periwinkle eyes are the “colour of April showers,” her tanned legs are the “colour of terra-cotta,” her neck is “milk white,” and her hair sticks out like “stiff corn-stalks.” Vinca is also tomboyish: “[S]he was careful to fasten her blouses and jumpers over a non-existent bosom, she tucked up her skirt and knickers as high as she could when paddling with the unconcern of a small boy.” She displays a feminine yet adolescent wisdom about becoming a wife and mother—already playing the part as she mends torn clothes, pours coffee, and serves food—while skillfully catching shrimp or fish, climbing rocks, and swimming. Nevertheless, although she moves comfortably between the physical worlds of tomboy and young girl, she is a bit wary when faced with the new world awaiting her, the world of physical love.

Phillipe is in a similar position: He is a young boy on the brink of manhood who “made a weapon of everything that embarrassed him.” He wants everything that Vinca wants, but he is less sure of himself and his future role as husband and overdramatizes first his virginity and later his virility. Phillipe retreats to fantasy worlds, where he plays the romantic and long-suffering hero. Longing for the freedom and pleasures of manhood, he is reluctant to give up the securities of childhood. Thus his movement between the two stages is more traumatic and, at times, more comically dramatic than Vinca’s.

Madame Dalleray is the most static of the three characters, and in her role as the seductress, she is the antithesis of Vinca. The lady in white has no connection to nature. Her world is an indoor one of velvets, satins, and silks; she closes out the daylight, surrounding herself with reds, golds, and blacks. While Vinca and Phillipe move timidly toward sexual initiation, Madame Dalleray, at thirty, is well versed in sexual exploits. For Phillipe, she represents both pleasure and shame; for Vinca, she awakens feelings of jealousy and competition.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Eisinger, Erica Mendelson, and Mari Ward McCarty, eds. Colette: The Woman, the Writer, 1981.

Goudeket, Maurice. Close to Colette, 1957.

Marks, Elaine. Colette, 1960.

Richardson, Joanna. Colette, 1983.

Stewart, Joan Hinde. Colette, 1983