Ind Aff- Setting

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Intertwining a historical background with a modern setting, Weldon’s Ind Aff, explores the consequences of an “inordinate affection” that invariably overshadows one’s logical senses. In her exploration, she creates a cross between the decisions that establish history with the consequences of those choices that one is then force to reevaluate. Weldon incorporates the gloom of a rainy day, a relationship that builds on overwhelming affection rather than true love, as well as a historical back drop into the story’s setting in order to show the insensibility and irrationality that arises from the one’s overbearing devotion and affection. Told through the point of view of a young, ambitious student, the story deliberately incorporates the infamous assassination of Archduke Ferdinand II in the display of not only a scholarly knowledge of the narrator, but also to exemplify her struggles in seeing past the façade of a “muscular academic” to see an old, married professor who smells “gently of chlorine” due to her “inordinate affection” just like Princip’s dominating nationalism.

Quickly establishing the fact that “this is a sad story”, Weldon utilizes the element of water in the form of rain in order to not only magnify the sadness of the story, but also to exude a tone of irony. The story in reality is not really sad in the sense of sorrow but sad in the sense that
“it was a silly sad thing to do, in the first place, to confuse mere passing academic ambition with love.” (206) As “the rain [fills] up Sarajevo’s pride” (201) it seems as though it tries to wash away the “two footprints set into a pavement which mark the spot where the young assassin Princip stood to shoot.” (202) Weldon creates a setting that exudes the feeling of regret and emphasizes the permanence of one’s actions. She begins by building the character of the narrator through explanation of her emotions through her surrounding settings. The gloom the rain produces clearly reflects her feelings as she is in a relationship where she is unsure if it is “more than just any old professor-student romance.” She wants answers that unfortunately, Peter cannot provide her. As Weldon begins the story with a relationship confliction amongst her characters, the setting she creates helps readers to associate imagery to the mood. The rain serves not only to establish the atmosphere in which the story takes place but also helps to confine Peter and the narrator “beneath other people’s umbrellas” (202) where they are forced to face their problems and journey towards a conclusion of the future of their relationship.

In weaving the story of a single gunshot that carries the power to set off one of the most disastrous wars in history, in which its ring is still resounding, with the story of a striving young student who is undeniably in conflicts with the decisions she has made, Weldon asks readers not only to examine the consequences but the motives as well. Weldon draws onto readers’ knowledge of the infamous assassination in order to create a dual setting that reflects the actions of the past and today. Not to say that the murdering of Archduke Ferndinand is comparable to a student in conflict with her emotions towards her professor is equivalent but the proximity of her location to Princip’s undoubtedly shows a connection. The backdrop of such a historical moment exemplifies the longlasting consequences of a single action, just as the narrator is in the midst of coming to a decision as well. She parallels Princip’s devotion to his country to the narrator’s devotion to her supposed love. Both Princip and the narrator’s motives are quite simple: love. Whether it is love for one’s nation or love for another being, Weldon shows that throughout history, the blinding power of love blurs the lines between rationality and irrationality creating actions based solely on emotion and not consequences. She sets the story in two highly contrasting time periods, but in the same location to show that despite an obvious passage of time, and progression of society, there remains the weakness of humans to act under the spell of love. Princip decides to murder Archduke Ferdinand out of a show of patriotism because, after all, “what’s a man to do when he loves his country.” As Weldon shows the irony of human nature through her setting, it is evident that the “inordinate affection” that the narrator at first expresses towards Peter blinded her from reality. She does not see an aging professor, with a wife, and with a “[less than] good mood” (205), but a “six foot two and grizzled and muscled” man. However set in the isolation of rain, the narrator is able to reflect and come to a discovery of “the real pain of Ind Aff.” Her realization, as exemplified through Weldon’s shift of the narrator’s reference to Peter to “Professor Piper”, leads her to be “finally aware [of] how much [she] lied [to herself].” (206)

In Ind Aff, Weldon creates a character who begins the story as a young and uncertain student who ponders the actions of Princip, who resided in another to show time period and another setting to show a repetition in the nature of humans through time and to come to a realization her true feelings. The historical environment plays the role to exemplify the danger of “inordinate affection.” In the end, the unnamed narrator comes to a realization that she does not want to follow the footsteps of Princip who “if he’d just hung on a bit, there in Safajevo, that June day, he might have come to his senses.” (207) The rain forces the narrator to see the reality of her situation as it clears away the blur between what is moral and what is immoral as she is in a relationship with a married man. In the end, the narrator decides not to be the one who “lit a spark” to result in the destruction of a family, of a marriage, and ultimately of her own moral senses.


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