What are the characteristics of bats as they are portrayed in the short story "My Life as a Bat"?  

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Throughout the story, by positing the narrator as a reincarnated bat, Margaret Atwood calls attention to the differences between bat and human behavior. The narrator, while straightforward in identifying bats as predators, also shows bats as the prey of humans. By inverting the relationship between person and animal, the narrator...

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Throughout the story, by positing the narrator as a reincarnated bat, Margaret Atwood calls attention to the differences between bat and human behavior. The narrator, while straightforward in identifying bats as predators, also shows bats as the prey of humans. By inverting the relationship between person and animal, the narrator portrays bats more positively than the reader is probably used to considering them. The narrator further anthropomorphizes bats by endowing them with religious beliefs.

Bats have a few things they put up with, but they do not inflict. When they kill, they kill without mercy, but without hate. They are immune from the curse of pity. They never gloat.

In this passage, the narrator contrasts what bats endure to what they do. Bats “kill”; conversely they must “put up with” others’ attempting to kill them. If they lack “mercy” and “hate, then it is likely that humans possess these characteristics and “inflict” them on bats. Similarly, humans, unlike bats, “pity” their victims and “gloat” over their ostensible superiority to them.

Bats are the prey of humans. The narrator recounts an episode of terror, as a man tried to hit them while they were “clinging to the ceiling of a . . . cottage . . . ” This effort was probably unsuccessful, but it might have been the one that killed the bat.

Bats have sonar, with which human voices can interfere. This interference occurs when a woman shrieks in the cottage.

Bats prefer dim environments, such as dawn, dusk, and caves. The narrator supports this with their “déjà vu experience in the Carlsbad Caverns . . . ” Further down, the narrator also mentions their preference for darkness, for “holes in walls . . . [and] the eaves of houses,” saying these are places where bats feel safe. They fly around the caves, for they have wings. They sleep by day, and at night they “chirp and rustle . . . ”

Bats do not like hair, in which they might become entangled. The blood-sucking vampire bat would prefer a “hairless extremity” such as a toe to the “neck [which] is too near the hair.”

Bats are not metal, as bombs are; they have “skin and flesh,” which is unlike their human counterparts.

According to the narrator, bats believe in a Creator, sing “supersonic hymns” to this creator, which also has a bat form and gave them everything, including their preferred “petals and fruit and juicy insects.” Bats have slippery wings and sharp white canines and shining eyes,” which they find beautiful.

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Throughout the story, the narrator reveals many characteristics of bats, showing their physical features, their habits and behavior, and the way she imagines their personalities or souls.

In Section 1 of the story, we're told that bats are merciless killers, but they don't hate their prey. They also don't pity or gloat.

Section 2 reveals that bats dislike encounters with humans, and that they enjoy finding a cool, quiet place to rest, away from the harsh glare of the sun.

We find out in Section 3 that bats hate getting tangled up in things, and that they are definitely not the awkward, evil-looking creatures that vampire films portray them as.

In Section 5, we see that bats have soft, round bodies; that their teeth are sharp, their eyes are shiny, and their wings are slippery; that a bat’s nose looks like “a dead leaf” or “a radiator grill;” and that mother bats lick their babies tenderly.

Putting this all together, bats are characterized in the story as beautiful, graceful, efficient, and appreciative of comfort and quiet.

 

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