Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In most of Margaret Atwood’s fiction, a female protagonist is presented as a victim, typically of a male-dominated lifestyle or of a sociopolitical patriarchal order. “Rape Fantasies” is no exception in drawing this portrait of the female as victim; however, in this story, Atwood deviates from her standard mode of repressed heroine. Estelle is a victim of her own naïveté, convinced that she is capable of trusting or managing those persons who dwell within her limited frame of reference and that she is equipped to handle whatever situations might arise from such associations.

The author paints Estelle’s character into a vaguely defined landscape that the reader can only surmise is a singles’ bar or comparable locale, and peoples it with a solitary, unidentified male listener. Due to the first-person narration and the monologue style of delivery, the reader is exposed to a limited, likely unreliable, reality—that of Estelle and her delusions of competence and control.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is what is left unwritten—that of Estelle’s enigmatic listener and his reaction to her mindless diatribe. From subtle hints, one can assume he is a person Estelle wishes to impress, but the story offers no closure and the reader can only guess at his perceptions and the ultimate outcome.

The central character drifts through her own fictions, firmly believing that rape is something that could happen only to someone else and that if she is incorrect in that assumption, she could reason with a potential...

(The entire section is 639 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Gender Roles and Stereotypes
Estelle's narration is filled with stereotypes of both men and women. For instance, she describes...

(The entire section is 679 words.)