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 h...
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...serious concepts and silly ones; and it is these transitions that reveal the contradictions in her thinking that she is unable to recognize. Estelle is unsure of some of the most important rape questions but is somehow satisfied in this uncertainty. The author shows this attitude to be a constant in Estelle's character, present whether she considers concrete or abstract ideas; and it is this trait, so deeply embedded in her very fiber, that negatively affects her humor, creativity, and other redeeming qualities so completely. In the end--after she has reiterated herself to be vulnerable and sympathetic to strangers, and after she has made this clear to none other than a complete stranger--she considers the idea of rape in a vague statement: "I know it happens but I just don't understand it, that's the part I really don't understand." And there is little wonder why.
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