Sarajevo Essay, Research Paper
IND AFF or Out of Love in Sarajevo
In “IND AFF, or Out of Love in Sarajevo,” Fay Weldon uses the setting of her story to teach a young woman a lesson in morality, and about life and love. This unnamed young woman narrates the story from the first person point of view, giving the reader a private glimpse into her inner struggle. The young woman is the protagonist in the story, and is a dynamic character; learning and growing in the few pages Weldon gives the reader a chance to get acquainted with her. Setting the story in Sarajevo allows Weldon to use historical events to teach the young woman about life. The largest role that setting plays in “IND AFF” is the historical event, which took place in this small town in Bosnia. An assassin named Princip took the life of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, in Sarajevo. This event is said to have propelled Europe into war, a war that came to be known as World War I. Visiting the town of Sarajevo the young woman ponders Princip’s decision to murder the Archduke and his wife, and these thoughts move her into a different course of action.
Weldon’s story is filled with irony, as the young woman seeks justification for an affair with a man who was, “supervising my thesis on varying concepts of morality and duty” (Weldon 147). Peter is her professor; his duty is to teach her about morality. As a married man, Peter is burdening her with the choice between her own morality and a struggle to be like her sister. The woman’s sister urges her to “just go for it, sister. If you can unhinge a marriage, it’s ripe for the unhinging, it would happen sooner or later, it might as well be you” (150). She wrestles with the idea of destroying a marriage, and overlays Princip’s choice to murder as she analyzes her decision. Princip made his choice; he gave his life for the love of his country. This woman is pondering acting against morals for the love of a man. She even hesitates to call it true love, and admits that the reason for the trip is to make sure “that it was the Real Thing, because the longer the indecision went on the longer Mrs. Piper would be left dangling in uncertainty and distress” (147).
Weldon uses rain to bring Mrs. Piper into the story, though she is not present in Sarajevo. The young woman notes that every sidewalk is sheltered by “a shield of bobbing umbrellas…to keep the rain off the streets. It just hadn’t worked around Princip’s corner…it wasn’t that Peter and myself were being singled out. No. It was raining on his wife, too, back in Cambridge” (147). Using the rain pouring down upon the main characters while the townsfolk remain sheltered, Weldon shows how exposed the two lovers are, and how Mrs. Piper, too, is affected by their actions. The young woman cannot forget her, as she cannot forget the Archduke’s wife. The young woman never names the Archduke’s wife in her narrative, preferring to leave her a nameless but unforgettable figure in the shooting. “Don’t forget his wife: everyone forgets his wife, the archduchess” (146). The young woman has the opportunity to “unhinge a marriage” (150), just as the assassin was faced with the choice to propel the world into war. Both choices will ultimately destroy an innocent woman.
Peter tells his young lover, as if to allay her fears of destroying a marriage, “it takes more than an assassination to start a war. What happened was that the buildup of political and economic tensions in the Balkans was such that it had to find some release” (148). Peter uses Sarajevo and the young woman’s emotions to justify the pain he is causing his wife. He states: “Your Ind Aff is my wife’s sorrow, that’s the trouble” (149), as if he carries no responsibility in the affair. In this way, Peter is absolved from any wrongdoing; he is swept away in the young woman’s emotions. His shallow pain only serves to make him feel that he is not the one to blame.
The young woman excuses Peter by finding a parallel between Peter and the chauffeur of the Archduke. They are both static characters with little dimensionality, and yet they both play a vital role in their respective tales. The young woman notes that the chauffeur had “lost his way”(149), much like Peter lost sight of his marriage and duty to his children. The woman does not blame the chauffeur, defending his actions and giving him a ready excuse. “Do not think that the archduke’s chauffeur was merely careless…he was, I imagine, in a state of shock, fright, and confusion” (149). In this way, the young woman shows that she sees Peter as an innocent party, driven to infidelity by the inordinate affection. His marriage “was ripe for unhinging” (150).
Inordinate affection is an all-consuming lust that clouds judgment, making one ignorant to consequences and surroundings. Peter complains that Princip’s footprints in the sidewalk are obscured by the rain, in much the same way that his lust for the young woman obscures the importance and pain of his wife. The inordinate affection that the young woman feels begins to wear off, starting a downpour, which is unstoppable until its inevitable conclusion.
The rain continues to drive the storyline, forcing the woman and her lover to dine in a restaurant, under the scrutiny of the public eye. Under the watchful stare of the waiters, she finally sees herself as others do. “In a world which for once…was finally full of young men, unslaughtered, what was I doing with this man with thinning hair?” (150) Here the pieces fall into place, and the woman realizes that she is selfish in her pursuit of a married man. The woman reads into the waiter’s reproachful look, and projects her own guilt upon this stranger. Instead of staying on her chosen path, she takes this stranger’s look as a sign from fate and walks away.
While Princip was later said to be a national hero, he died a lonely death in prison after wasting away for three years. The protagonist ponders this historical fact, knowing that if she stays with the professor she would be blamed for the early demise of his marriage. Although “World War I would have had to have started sooner or later” (148), the young woman struggles with Princip’s actions, wondering if love of one’s country can justify the deaths of 40 million people. The question that plagued her was whether the love of a man can justify the death of a marriage. Was the young woman willing to make that leap? The change is evident here when the woman debates the decision Princip made. “Should he have taken his cue from fate, and just sat and finished his coffee, and gone home to his mother?” (150).
The marriage can be used as a comparison for a country, and in “IND AFF or Out of Love in Sarajevo” Weldon uses these two institutions to illustrate how choices made by individuals can change the fate of a nation or the life of a marriage, but only if they are already filled with turmoil and discontent. A contented, satisfied people will not be propelled into a war with the death of one man, as a marriage will not fail simply because a pretty face tempts a spouse. The young woman is faced with a moral decision, should she be “the shot that lit the spark that fired the timber that started the war” (148). In the end, she cannot have that on her conscience, and realizes that “a bit later or a bit sooner…might have made the difference” (148). Throughout the story, the nameless student changes and grows, influenced by the setting of the story. She begins a woman in denial, “I suppose Princip’s actions couldn’t really have started World War I” (148), and comes to realize that she is not willing to burden herself with the guilt of destroying a marriage.