Rachael Rosen is the novel's equivalent of the femme fatale. By that we don't mean she's the novel's Britney Spears album or Antonio Banderas movie or song by the Velvet Underground and Nico or—point is, there are a lot of things called femme fatale out there.
What we mean is that Rachael is an archetypal female character, one most associated with the hardboiled detective stories or film noir movies. A femme fatale is both seductive and mysterious. The protagonist is usually infatuated with her, partly because of her mysterious past but mostly because of her va-va-voom. The femme fatale uses this va and substantial voom to her advantage, trapping him—in hardboiled detective stories the protagonist is always a guy—with her feminine allure and putting him either directly or indirectly in dangerous circumstances.
Yep, sounds a lot like Rachael.
Twice in the novel, Rachael puts Rick in a compromising position. In true femme fatale fashion, she says it is for his benefit when in fact she's playing him.
The first time is when Rick goes to Rosen Associations headquarters in Seattle to perform blind tests of the Voigt-Kampff test on both humans and Nexus-6 androids. Rachael is his first test subject, and after a chapter's long questions-and-answer session, he determines she's not human. Wrong! Declaring the Voigt-Kampff broken, Rachael offers Rick a deal: He keeps hunting the rogue andys, and they'll not tell anyone about the Voigt-Kampff's failure. They'll even sweeten the deal by throwing in the only surviving owl, one Scrappy by name. Because who can say no to an owl named Scrappy? No one, that's who.
As Rachael tells Rick, "If you have no test you can administer, then there is no way you can identify an androids. And if there's no way you can identify an android there's no way you can collect your bounty" (5.62).
But wait! It's a trick. Rick almost accepts the deal before he realizes the truth: Rachael really is an android and likely one that has had fake memories implanted. He manages to avoid their trap with one more Voigt-Kampff question.
In true femme fatale fashion, Rachael disappears from the story for a while but later calls Rick to offer her assistance in hunting the Nexus-6 androids, claiming she wants to make it all up to him. Rick refuses until he decides to go after Pris and the Baty, and he asks her to meet him at the St. Francis Hotel.
They ultimately sleep with each other, and in one of those post-sexual confessions that seems popular with literature characters, Rachael reveals her true motives. She knows all the escaped androids and deliberately manipulated Rick's emotions in order to save them. As she tells Rick, "'No bounty hunter ever has gone on […] after being with me'" (17.29).
This makes Rachael an unusual take on the femme fatale character. She's a program specifically designed to be a femme fatale, an amalgamation of the archetype designed by the Rosen Association. We feel for Rick, here. How was he supposed to resist a woman specifically engineered to entrap him?
The name femme fatale comes from the French meaning "fatal or disastrous woman," and Rachael certainly lives up to the title with Rick's poor goat. As is always the case when a goat is launched off a roof, we need to ask ourselves why it happened.
And the answer is, "Dunno." Sure, we can assume she's upset with Rick for one reason or another. Rick even says, "'Rachael wouldn't give a damn if you saw her; she probably wanted you to, so I'd know who had done it'" (20.18). Yet the exact reason is left to the reader's imagination since we never meet Rachael again.
That said, here are a few possibilities we came up with:
— Rachael really did love Rick, and when he went back to Iran rather than be with her, she killed their goat in a jealous rage.
— She really empathized with Pris and the others. Once Rick retired them, she killed the goat, so Rick would lose something he loved.
— She simply could not handle failure, and this was payback.
— The Rosen Association ordered her to kill the goat for whatever reason.
— She really, really does not like goats.
Okay, maybe not the last one. Depending on which one you choose, you'll likely have a different reading of Rachael and her role as the novel's femme fatale.