The Ripening Seed

by Colette

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

But when he said in his heart of hearts "Vinca!", the name inseparably linked with his friend, evoked the memory of sand, warm to kneel on, or trickling out between fingers that held it in a tight squeeze...

This quote exemplifies Philippe’s struggle to make sense of his blossoming friendship with Vinca. The two have been childhood friends for years and shared time vacationing together on the Brittany coast. Now, at the age of 16, he starts to recognize a growing attraction for Vinca. Philippe and Vinca fall in love and develop a romantic relationship. However, Philippe has an affair with an older woman in town. Philippe is forced to reconcile this affair with his love for Vinca. He struggles to come to terms with his guilt and desires.

All that could be seen through the window was the August tide, bringing rain in its wake. The earth came to an abrupt end out there, at the edge of the sand hills. One more squall, one more upheaval of the great grey field furrowed with parallel ridges of foam, and the house would surely float away like the ark . . . but Phil and Vinca knew the August seas of old and their monotonous thunder, as well as the wild, white-capped seas of September. They knew that this corner of a sandy field would remain impassable, and all through their childhood they had scoffed at the frothy foam-scuds that danced powerlessly up to the edge of man's dominion.

This quote is an example of Colette’s use of imagery and natural scenery to dramatize the love scenes of the book. Set on the coastline, the relationship between these angsty teenagers is furthered by the dramatic nature of the coast. Philippe and Vinca spent much of their childhood playing along the shore. This same shore is now the setting of their stormy romance. The scenery is often used for the characters to reflect on the turmoils of their relationship.

I was set upon . . . shut up in a cellar, given powerful potions to quench my thirst, tied naked to a stake, tortured, put to the test. . . .

Here Philippe tries to explain to Vinca the nature of his affair. He describes it as a type of trap that captivated his attention. Madame Dalleray is described in the book as overly-feminine and dripping with desire. Philippe openly gawks at her sexuality and is instantly interested. After the affair, Philippe feels incredibly guilty but also thankful for the experience. He is forced to come to terms with his love and his desires. Vinca does not understand why he would lose his virginity to a stranger and not to her. She is both hurt and angry.

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