The plot of Rape Fantasies by Margaret Atwood is all within the mind of Estelle, who talks to the reader as she might to a new friend. Estelle’s personality becomes exposed to us through the narration of her fantasies and lunchtime work experiences.
We are told of Estelle’s workplace where she is with her friends discussing their rape fantasies. Examining Estelle’s world through her perspective of the conversation, we find she is a game player both outwardly in playing bridge and in her relationship with herself. “I like to guess a person’s age and then look it up to see if I’m right. I let myself have an extra pack of cigarettes if I am.” (31). This example of Estelle’s competitiveness is expressed in three other ways in the story. First, in her critical interpretation of Greta’s and Chrissey’s fantasies. Estelle says to her friend/reader that she is aware that Greta’s fantasy rapist came from a show that they both had seen and also compares him to Tarzan in a satirical, humorous way. Her comment to Chrissey’s
bubble bath fantasy, “Anyway you might get bubbles up your nose… from all the heavy breathing,” (32) appears to cause the other four women to become offended. Second, her thoughts and words will sometimes cut short the words of her co-workers as in this example: “Sondra was miffed too, by this time she finished her celery and she wanted to tell about hers, but she hadn’t got in fast enough. ‘All right, let me tell you one,’ I said.” (32). Third, this sort of personality domination is also seen in Estelle’s rape fantasies themselves. In almost every fantasy that Estelle reveals to us, she overcomes the rapist with her cool head and creative thinking; otherwise, she mentions physical attacks or force. Her first fantasy describes how she tricks the rapist into helping her squirt lemon juice in his eye. Then she tells us of the poor man who could not unzip his pants and was saved by Estelle from suicide by her kindness and sentimental understanding. In her third fantasy, Estelle helps a man with a bad cold who breaks into her apartment to rape her. She gives him Kleenex, Neo-Citran and scotch and they watch the Late Show together. The next fantasy involves a man in her mother’s basement with an axe, but she tells him,
I hear the same angel voices and they’ve been telling me for some time that I’m going to give birth to the reincarnation of St. Anne who in turn has the Virgin Mary and right after that comes Jesus Christ and the end of the world, and he wouldn’t want to interfere with that, would he? (35).
This sends him back up the coal shoot. Then she briefly fantasizes about a number of potential rape situations where she hurts or physically overpowers her assailant, but quickly returns to less threatening possibilities. Her last fantasy is, in Estelle’s words,
“the most touching… and kind of dignified” (pg. 35) rape fantasy where she is dying of leukemia and is grabbed by a man in the same condition. She woos him and they move into an apartment where they die together.
Estelle likes power; she is not helpless in her fantasies. Her fantasies of being a Kung-Fu expert demonstrate her wish for control over her body and her safety. Estelle can outwit, confuse, and fool her fantasy rapists; in fact she hopes she is not too vicious to them. By calmly listening to her rapists or starting a conversation with them, she attempts to assert herself. She can relate to and give advice to her rapists. They can even watch the late show together. Truly, Estelle’s rapists are as unrealistically obliging and polite as her coworkers’ rapists were romantically accommodating. These fantasy men are definite failures at raping Estelle, but they are more successful at having a relationship with a woman than the “successful” rapists. Ironically, the men even leave her feeling sorry for their unsuccessful attempts at rape. For example, Estelle mentions one rapist who gets his zipper stuck as he starts to undo himself and begins to cry, at “one of the most significant moments in a girl’s life,