September 24, 2008
Setting in Ind Aff
Ind Aff, a short story written by Fay Weldon, addresses the thoughts and eventual self-realization of a young woman in the midst of an affair with a married history professor, Peter. Set in Saravejo, Bosnia, the location of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, the unnamed narrator eventually has an epiphany concerning her relationship with the professor. Using parallels to the Archduke’s murderer, young Princip, the narrator realizes the folly of pursuing anything with questionable motives, in her case, a relationship. Weldon especially develops this idea of coming to one’s senses through setting- atmosphere, locale, and historical contexts, as both the narrator and her historical counterpart struggle with self-realization (Weldon 207).
Atmosphere is developed early in the story creating a degree of gloominess that is prevalent throughout. Weldon writes, "This is a sad story. It has to be. It rained in Sarajevo, and we had expected fine weather," (Weldon 201). In the very first sentence, Weldon establishes the pattern of weather- rain, that is prevalent throughout the story and addresses the fact that rain is representative of meloncholy. Beyond the physical gloominess of her surroundings, including the "black clouds," the "shiver[ing]" and the fact that "it was too wet to do what [they] loved to do" the couple themselves experienced a an unhappy tension between them that mirrored the poor weather. Throughout the short reading, the narrator was constantly being relegated and disdained. She specifically noted the fact that the professor said that she "had a good mind but not a first-class mind" (Weldon 202). Nor was Peter "in a good mood" throughout the course of the story (Weldon 203). Weldon developed the atmosphere- gloomy, damp, cold initially in order to mirror the gloominess of the couple’s relationship. In another sense, Thomas C. Foster, author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor believes that rain symbolizes cleansing and rebirth. One could argue that such themes are prevalent within the short story as the narrator cleanses herself of an unhealthy relationship. In either sense, the rain helped to motivate the narrator’s epiphany to leave her lover.
The physical location of the story, however, has a greater role in developing the idea of coming to one’s senses. Set in Saravejo, Bosnia, this is revealed to be the location of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s murder, which has been considered in many spheres the catalyst of WWI. The reader is given a broad description of both the area and simultaneously Princip’s affect on it, thus the historical contexts of the area become central to the progression of the story. Weldon writes, "The rain filled up Sarajevo’s pride, two footprints set into a pavement which mark the spot where the young assassin Princip stood to shoot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife," (Weldon 201). The physical locale of the story- Sarajevo, allows the narrator to begin a lengthy discussion about the assassin Princip, drawing parallels to herself. Both characters share the sin of "inordinate affection," and allowing it to cloud their judgement (Weldon 204). Simultaneously, both are described as "silly and sad," (Weldon 206). While the narrator had an epiphany concerning her relationship with the professor, realizing that it was folly to continue the relationship if it was simply motivated by competition with her sister, Clare, Princip had no such epiphany. Princip believed unto the moment he killed the Archduke, that his motivations were ethical and moral. "If he’d just hung on a bit, there in Sarajevo, that June day, he might have come to his senses. People do, sometimes quite quickly," Weldon writes of Princip (Weldon 207). Considered a hero in the area, the narrator discusses his motivations skeptically. She speaks of the WWI’s casualties caused in part by his assassination plot, "Forty million dead (or was it thirty?) but who cares? So long as he loved his country," (Weldon 202). The ironic means in which she discusses his motivations, insinuating that love of a country is not reason enough to cause such carnage, helps to shape the idea of coming to one’s senses. Through lengthy descriptions of Princip’s time spent in the café, the narrator suggests that perhaps he should have remained there and not taken advantage of another opportunity to assassinate the Archduke. Had he remained in the café, the outcome of WWI would have been quite different. The physical locale of the story, Sarajevo, allowed Weldon to draw parallels between her narrator and the assassin Princip as both made weighty decisions in that same Bosnian city. The narrator ultimately credits the setting, Sarajevo, with her epiphany as she concedes,"And that was how I fell out of love with my professor, in Sarajevo, a city to which I am grateful to this day…" (Weldon 206). The setting therefore represents a pivotal area in which self-realization is reached.
The setting of Ind Aff, a few rainy days in Sarajevo, presents a broken couple and the actions of an assassin, Princip, occurring in the same location hundreds of years prior. His rash decision to shoot the Archduke out of a misguided love for his country reflected a similar misguided love the narrator shared for the professor. His inability to recognize the folly of "inordinate affection," helped to shape the narrator’s own self-realization and her decision to leave the professor. Rainy Sarajevo therefore represents an area where the idea of "coming to one’s senses" is developed and cultured, given the parallels between the assassin and the narrator, as the narrator continues to compare herself to this "silly and sad" individual.