How Setting and Theme Were Tied in “IND AFF”
In “IND AFF”, Fay Weldon uses her carefully chosen setting to unravel the conflicts in the mind of an unnamed girl who, in the beginning of the story, believes herself to be in love, but slowly comes to the realization, with the help of the actions of Gavrilo Princip, that it is not love she is feeling, but “a mere academic ambition”(207). This short story, which takes place in Sarajevo, the same place Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, is not only about questioning love, but also about cause and effect. The unnamed woman, who is at first sure of her love for Peter, eventually finds the supposed “love” waning. Also, she worries about the effect her relationship is really having on the marriage of the Pipers. Though she has been assured a catch is a catch even if it is already taken by someone else, the setting, which holds many threads of cause and effect itself, leads to her questions about the effect she will truly have. By using the place where a man who was looked upon, first as villain, but then as hero, Weldon is able to show the conflict going on in the young woman’s mind.
Oftentimes the events during a trip are dependent on the weather. This was the case in Weldon’s story. From the beginning the young woman was saying “This is a sad story. It has to be. It rained in Sarajevo, and we had expected fine weather.”(201) Sarajevo is often associated with the death of the Archduke of Austria. Weldon chose this dark and dreary place, a place where love withers rather than blooms, to send her characters on vacation. They were looking forward to fine weather, but were instead welcomed with plenty of rain. Their plans were ruined, as the nameless girl says “We planned to go on to Montenegro, on the coast, where the fish and the artists come from, to swim and lie in the sun, and recover from the exhaustion caused by the sexual and moral torments of the last year.” (202) The question of love, which is a prominent theme of this essay, was put on the line with this change of events. The plans of the lovers had gone awry, and in turn, they were forced to do something besides lying on the beach or swimming their cares away. This question of love, which may not have been questioned at all, had it been for a different setting, was looked at much more closely when they couple was forced to do everyday things, such as eating at a restaurant, or walking along the streets. By placing them in a bleak and dismal setting, they were forced to look at their relationship without the love making to help. After all, their favorite thing was to “buy bread, cheese, sausage, wine, and go off somewhere in [their] hired car, into the woods or the hills, and picnic and make love.”(203) Their downtime also gave Peter, the unknown woman’s lover, a chance to complain. Looking at the footprints where Princip stood to shoot the bullet that would be the death of the Archduke, Peter complained that he had come such a long way and one “can’t even see the footprints properly, just two undistinguished puddles.”(202) The setting, which yet again played a part right next to the supposed love, was what gave Peter a chance to complain. Granted, he probably would have found something to complain about no matter where he was, but in this case, he found something to complain about that was weighing heavily on the mind of the young woman. He was grumbling about something she was so enamored with. Once again, by taking the characters out of a typical setting where love can grow, they were instead put in a setting where the truth of their love would be challenged. With these tests of love, Weldon was able to show what an environment could do to a relationship.
Princip, the man who killed the Archduke, was at first looked at as a criminal, one who deserved to be locked away for life. Later, he was viewed as a hero; he was seen as the one who freed Austria. The young woman has a thirst for knowledge about this man, asking Peter all about Princip, and about the war. She kept rolling her thoughts on his actions through her mind, saying “‘I suppose Princip’s action couldn’t really have started World War I.’”(203) Her worries about what can cause something else shows another theme of the book: cause and effect. Her wonder, almost more of a hunger, for information about Princip’s actions shows that she is worried about how much of an effect she is going to have on the Piper’s marriage. She also toys with the idea of fate, and what effect that had and will have in both Princip’s and her own situation. After Princip missed the first shot aimed at the Archduke, he went off and got a cup of coffee, only to stand right back up and try again. The woman wonders “Should he have taken his cue from fate, and just sat and finished his coffee, and gone home to his mother?”(205) What about her own fate? When she left, it was “fate—or was it Bosnian willfulness?”(206) Was her fate possibly tied with that of Princip? Perhaps, in the way that he was originally the villain for killing the Archduke, but later became the hero for freeing a country, she too experienced the same thing. She was the villain for pulling a man away from his wife, but in the end she was the hero for letting him go. She realized everything she had with him was really a lie, saying she was “finally aware of how much [she] lied.”(206) Though it was indeed a sad story, as she had originally stated, she was able to leave as the hero.
Weldon incorporated a setting in which an important event happened, which led to the realization of a young woman that what she was doing wasn’t right. Without such a setting, perhaps she never would have realized. By using the setting, Weldon was able to set up a believable situation in which a young woman can finally escape the relationship with the man she thought she loved.