In Margaret Atwood’s 1977 short story “Rape Fantasies,” the narrative situation is revealed through the narrator’s sarcastic, ironic, and ultimately sincere style of speaking.
From the start, the narrator, Estelle, separates herself from the onslaught of rape content. In fact, she mocks the trend:
The way they’re going on about it in the magazines you’d think it was just invented, and not only that but it’s something terrific.
Estelle’s humor reflects the rather absurd situation that she finds herself in. She’s in a society in which rape is discussed in the same manner one might write about “ten new hairdos.”
At lunch with her coworkers, there is no reprieve from the rape conversation. Estelle tries to steer her friends toward a bridge topic, but they insist on swapping rape fantasies. To cope with their discourse, Estelle continues to make fun of the situation. She makes fun of Greta. Apparently, Greta thinks she’s a “war hero or something” for having worked in Detroit. She also specifically ridicules Chrissy’s rape fantasy by comparing her dreamed-up assailant to Tarzan.
The tension with her coworkers and society at large arguably puts the reader in a situation where they are presumed to be on Estelle’s side when it comes to this fraught issue. It’s the reader—“the you”—that Estelle confides in. While she does disclose a little about what she would do in a rape situation to her coworkers, she saves most of her quirky yet ultimately earnest scenarios for the reader. This choice creates a situation in which the reader turns into Estelle’s confidant.