Character Analysis Of Estelle In Margaret Atwood\'s "Rape Fantasies"


Estelle is the only thoroughly developed character in Margaret
Atwood\'s "Rape Fantasies." Though she is the narrator and quite thoughtful of
the ideas and reactions of the story\'s supporting players, it is her almost
obsessive preoccupation with a singular topic that actually prompts her to
fully illustrate her own ideas and reactions, drawing a character far more
compelling than any of the men or women she will attempt to describe. Estelle
begins her story and ruminations swiftly. She considers rape, how rape has
recently been treated like a new scourge, and how essays and tips on rape
prevention have become something of an institution themselves. Estelle
recalls a conversation during a recent bridge game, where "rape fantasies"
was the topic and her lunchmates each offered a feeling about it, from
disgust to confusion to admitted interest in elaborate, particular fantasies.
Estelle, during the course of these conversations, makes observations about
the women, subtly revealing her method of focus and her sense of the
important, telling less about the characters of the women and more about
Estelle herself. These constant, critical, and often silly observations are
the very thing which clearly draws the character of this narrator. Her
disregard for dreadful concepts and her ability to make light of serious
situations are the very character qualities that make believable her
carelessness in the end.
The anecdotes about each of the bridge players indicates the comfort
Estelle finds in gossip, unfair criticism, and the sharing of the particulars
of her own rape fantasies. Estelle tells of a moment when one of the bridge
players, Darlene, seemed to address her directly; Estelle thinks that "I may
have been mistaken but she was looking at me." Without ever giving Darlene
the benefit of the doubt, or even considering the minimal power of such an
insult, Estelle is quick to remind the reader how she believes she has the
upper hand to this older woman: "She\'s forty-one though you wouldn\'t know it
and neither does she, but I looked it up in the employee file...I mean, not
everyone has access to that file..." Another player, Greta, pipes up the
slightest opinion, this one having nothing remotely to do with Estelle, and
she is disregarded as frivolous. "She worked in Detroit for three years and
she never lets you forget it, it\'s like she thinks shes\'a war hero or
something..." Estelle puts each of them into what she feels is their place,
and never once looks at herself with the same eye. Estelle is above such
criticism only because she can relate to her own feelings, and she is ready
to trivialize and criticize the other characters because she believes she
cannot relate to them, considering mostly their flaws. But it is the clear
similarities between Estelle and the women, shown vividly during this
collective speculation on the "rape fantasy" topic, that realizes Estelle\'s
character to the audience. Of all the women at the table, only Estelle tosses
out obnoxious humor, and it is the reaction to this obnoxiousness that
unifies the group and identifies Estelle: they\'re thinking of her the same
way she\'s thinking of them, but with better reason to do so.
Estelle\'s own rape fantasies show her creativity and her willingness
to explore a topic, but it is her haphazard movement from one idea to the
next that indicates Estelle\'s lack of discipline, and effectively shows her
character\'s careless tendencies. When considering a rape fantasy where she\'s
a kung fu expert, ready to defend herself against an attack, her mind drifts
away from the point almost immediately: "...or I flip him against a wall or
something. But I could never really stick my fingers in anyone\'s eyes, could
you? It would feel like hot jello and I don\'t even like cold jello." This
chaotic transition is important to recognize because it shows how easily this
woman\'s attention can be diverted. No longer is it a wonder how simple
statements that don\'t involve Estelle can all of the sudden lead to fiercely
critical thoughts about her fellow bridge players; Estelle rarely stays to
the point, and shifts from one thought to the next to keep herself from
becoming too serious. She