In Kate Chopin’s short story “Ripe Figs” we are presented with two characters that stand in sharp contrast to one another; Whereas Babette is an impatient child, Maman Nainaine is a patient woman.
The two characters’ ability to wait is made evident in their response to nature. For instance, Maman Nainaine tells her that she may visit her cousins when the figs have ripened. Babette clearly finds it difficult to wait patiently until the harvest at the end of summer, for “every day Babette dance[s] out to where the fig-trees were in a long line against the fence” and “each time she [comes] disconsolate away again” (7a). Although she knew she’d have to wait “a very long time”, she still cannot stop herself from checking each day, almost as though she thinks she can push nature to speed up. As well, notice her daily disappointment as she comes away “disconsolate”. Often those who are impatient feel constant frustration or disappointment when their awaited goal does not come about. Babette’s impatience is also seen when we are told that she is “as restless as a humming-bird” (7a). Humming-birds move so quickly, that one cannot see their wings as they flap. Her restlessness, her unwillingness to sit still, shows how anxious her impatience is making her. In contrast to Babette, Maman Nainaine is patient enough to wait on the seasons. Her choice to let the ripening of the figs decide when Babette may take a trip shows us that she is not one to rush things but is content to set her internal clock by nature’s time-table, a time-table that is not always regular and can sometimes run longer than usual (7a). Moreover, patient people are usually calm people. Maman Nainaine is certainly described as tranquil. Indeed, we are told that she is “as patient as the statue of la Madone” (7a). This is an interesting image, for statues are anything but restless. Indeed, they never move. Whereas Babette cannot sit still, Maman Nainaine is unmoved by anxiety due to impatience....
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.