September 24, 2008
In this "sad," yet remarkable journey of a much-needed epiphany, the narrator of "IND AFF" experiences a realization that neither her feelings nor the affections in her life are permanent. Having an impulsive decision to leave behind her beau, a professor 21 years older, and continue her current life flying solo, the narrator comes to the reality that even though the circumstances of her life look gray now, it is sure to have sun in the future. Through the usage of rain on an unexpected summer day in Sarajevo, Fay Weldon creates an ironic atmosphere and ending for the young narrator in her short story.
The setting of this short story intertwines greatly with the atmosphere. The weather "black clouds swishing gently all over Europe" (202), is described to foreshadow the end of a once great love. Having a light-hearted conversation, the narrator sits inside a confined box that she calls a “restaurant.” Away from rain and the “too wet” (203) outside, the atmosphere between the narrator and her professor/lover is already tense. The professor is at a crossroad where he must decide if he wants to live the remainders of his days with the narrator or his wife. Adding to the tension of their relationship, the main characters are trapped inside buildings because it is raining consistently for the entire duration of the trip. The atmosphere, however, will soon change—the narrator decides that she really does not love her professor and gets up and leaves him empty handed. The narrator has an epiphany that she is too young to make such a final decision in her life, and realizes that like her feelings towards the professor, the uneasy situation will soon too change. The atmosphere ironically plays into the way the audience expects the story to end; because the narrator ends up content at her decision and that she has “come to [her] senses.” (207)
The history behind the city of Sarajevo corresponds to the actions of the narrator. Princip the young assassin, who started World War I, kills Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife is symbolic to the actions of the narrator. After her affair with her professor, she realizes that she is not “inordinately” in love with him. However, like Princip, she has already destroyed the life and family of Professor Peter through her decision to have a love affair with him. The history of Sarajevo states that Princip shot three times “starting World War I” and killed off a “whole generation, and their children, and their children’s children, and on and one forever” (207) Through the parallelism of the shots of Princip and the rejection of the narrator to the professor, Weldon allows the audience to realize that not even the strongest, most powerful people (Archduke and his family) or emotions (love) are ever permanent. Weldon, by using Sarajevo as the setting wants the audience to realize that though the narrators’ feelings are not permanent (nor are her decisions) she has destroyed a family and the family’s future generations. The history of Sarajevo, while similar to the destruction the narrator causes, is ironic to the ending of the story. At the end, the narrator is strangely thankful that even though she has acted like the Princip and destroyed an important relationship and figure, she escapes the fate of the assassin.
Like the narrator’s feelings, the weather and season are at constant change as well. Set during the summer on a rainy day, the narrator has a symbolic epiphany because of the rain. On the third day of her stay at Sarajevo, as if the rain washes away her sentiments and destructive ways, the narrator is filled with hope and dreams for her future. The narrator grasps the knowledge that letting her emotions (of love, parallel to Princip’s love of his country) control the best of her, she would imprison herself and not enjoy the rest of her young adult-hood. As a waiter gives her a smile with “even and white” teeth, the narrator gets a “different pang” which she describes as “the real pain of Ind Aff [inordinate affection]” (206). Like the summer, the narrator is still young and has many happy years ahead of her. This setting allows the audience to understand that seasons and weather change, as well as circumstances of life—nothing’s permanent. By using a summer setting, Weldon conveys to the audience that the narrator is young and inexperienced; unsure of her changing feelings. However, the unexpected rain clears her thoughts and permits her to see the many years of life she has ahead of her (parallel to the many days after the summer days).
The setting, in this short story, conveys the narrator’s views that not even the strongest feelings or things (love and family) are not permanent. Using the narrator to change her strong feelings of love towards Professor Peter to falling “out of love with [her] professor” (206), Weldon concludes in the belief that life is a matter of hello's and goodbyes—welcoming new ordinary feelings and decisions, as well as learning to change and accept changes of affection. The unexpected rain on a sunny day compares to negative feelings or decision that are followed by a sunny day—feelings, affections, and situations are always changing, but never permanent.