Women in the Workforce - Good or Bad?

"Top Girls" by Caryl Churchill
What is te diner scene about?
Who is Caryl Churchill?
Women in the Workforce - Good or Bad?
Who is Isabella Bird?
Who is Lady Nijo?
Who is Dull Gret?
Who is Pope Joan?
Who is Patient Griselda?
Where can I find more information?

Caryl Churchill once stated, "Playwrights don't give answers, they ask questions" (Kritzer,1). For Churchill, that meant questioning the relationship between women and labor, and what effect they would have on the workplace and in society. In her play, "Top Girls," Churchill uses sixteen characters, played by seven women, to represent the different possibilities or lives a woman could hold in today's world and in the past. The plot centers around Marlene, who is a product of gender equality and women in the workplace. Churchill utilizes Marlene's character to show the opposition between an ethic of caring and an ethic of competition, Marlene representing the latter (139). Various characters throughout the story, such as the obedient Griselda and the troubled Angie, are the opposites of Marlene, in that they are either subservient to men or have no real determination or direction in their lives. The most obvious parallel to Marlene is the young girl Kit, who is the friend of Marlene's daughter (Angie). It is easiest to observe the similarities of these two characters in order to get a clear picture as to how Churchill sees women being affected by competition and a male-dominated society. Act I scene 3 takes place with Angie and Kit hiding from Joyce in a shelter. In it Kit makes the statement, "Do you wanna watch The Exterminator?" (Churchill, 45). The title of exterminator can be linked to Marlene in an earlier scene at the employment agency in which she smashes a woman's hopes and potential by sending her to a clerical job with a lamp shade manufacturer, when in truth the women probably had a lot more talent than the job required. Marlene also shows her ruthless exterminating side in the office when she gets a job promotion and her male counterpart does not. Even when the man's wife, Mrs. Kidd, comes to tell Marlene how the decision has ruined her husband, Marlene simply answers in a cold fashion, "If he doesn't like what's happening here he can go and work somewhere else," (70). One might even say that Marlene is cold and indifferent to Mrs. Kidd because she represents the complete opposite of Marlene; a wife who puts her husband first and thinks women should let men be promoted before women. Characteristics of Marlene can be seen throughout the discourse between Kit and Angie, with Kit making statements such as, "I'm not scared of anything," (47) and, "I'd find out where they were going to drop it [a nuclear bomb] and stand right in the place," (50). The nuclear bomb can be related to Marlene's competition and advancement in the workplace, for she is making an "explosion" into a man's world by surpassing that of her male colleague. On page 54, Kit also expresses her ability and desire to take on a traditionally male profession, such as a physicist. This profession is comparable to Marlene's job of Managing Director, which she has ruthlessly beat-out her male peer for. Other instances in which Marlene is portrayed by Churchill to be the essence of a working-woman turned overly competitive is when in the first scene of Act I Marlene tells the waiter at the restaurant, "Make that two steaks and a lot of potatoes. Rare," (15) Churchill is making an obvious statement with this line due to the meal being traditionally that of a man's, and the ruthless animalistic picture of a rare bloody steak. On page 19, Marlene also states, "I don't wear trousers in the office. / I could but I don't." This line is thrown in almost blatantly to point out that Marlene is a woman, but that at work she can be equal to any man.

The overall theme Churchill seems to carry out in, "Top Girls," is one of determining the pros and cons of women in society, and especially in the labor situations. Different possible roles that women can play, in past and present, are presented in Act I scene 1, to show the effects of womanhood on a woman in that particular situation. By contrasting the vigilant wife to the aggressive worker, or to the caring pope, or the obliging mistress, Churchill is able to point out how it is necessary for one to equally balance a domestic life with one of new views that breakdown old stereotypes and gender/social-based roles.

"Top Girls" by Caryl Churchill | What is the dinner scene about? | Who is Caryl Churchill? | Women in the Workforce - Good or Bad? | Who is Isabella Bird? | Who is Lady Nijo? | Who is Dull Gret? | Who is Pope Joan? | Who is Patient Griselda? | Where can I find more information?

Date Last Modified: 11/15/00