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“Top Girls” a Play by Caryl Churchill

Women have already made a long way towards the establishment of equality. Caryl Churchill in her play Top Girls highlights the issue regarding the success of the women’s movement of the 1970s and 80s, making us doubt that the female accomplishments in the sphere of career are enough for the woman to be happy.

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As a matter of fact, the question regarding the woman and her success at the workplace seem to be a central topic of the play. The first act is focused on the celebration of Marlene’s success as she won promotion in pace with a man, Howard Kidd (Churchill, 2013). In spite of the fact that Marlene reached her goal and is successful in career, she paid a big value for it; she gave up her personal life (Churchill, 2013).

Churchill aims to analyze and show the economic and social position of the female of 1970s and 1980s. Joyce is depicted as a symbol of old times, as an opposite to Marlene. Joyce did not reach success in the sphere of career; however, she became a mother and wife (Churchill, 2013). As the play reaches the culmination, it becomes evident that both women do not feel happy as the balance is not found. The primary reason for the disappointment of Joyce and Marlene with their life is that they failed to find a right balance between personal life, family, and work (Churchill, 2013).

The period of 1970-1980 is characterized by the women’s movement, feminism. The primary objective of the movement was to reach equality between male and female and to provide every woman with a possibility of getting the education, work, and socio-economic status on the same level that men have.

Marlene got a promotion; however does she have equal rights with men? Do women are treated equally in the society? Can a woman be happy and successful in work at the same time? All these questions find reflection the play. Joan, a woman that became Pop, states “I thought God would speak to me directly. But of course he knew I was a woman” (Churchill, 2013, p. 14). She says these words with irony. People used to believe that females cannot talk directly to God.

Top Girls addresses three major issues, namely isolation, success, and power. Isolation refers to the role of woman in the society. Churchill highlights that every woman plays a role provided by the community. Marlene, for example, is successful in the business environment; Lady Nijo represents the image of Japanese concubine that is forced to follow every word of her husband (Churchill, 2013). Griselda is also isolated from the society as she is a housewife and should obey her husband (Churchill, 2013).

In terms of success and power, the author of the play aims to highlight the dependence of the women on father and husband. Griselda was forced to marry a man that continued the work of her father, namely constant restrictions. Lady Nijo experienced the power of men as well. However, Churchill aims to stress that feminism movement contributed to the fact that women have a possibility to succeed, although the equality is questionable. The traditional view of the women (Lady Nijo and Griselda) is opposed to the modern type, Marlene and Pope Joan (Churchill, 2013).

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In conclusion, it is worth pointing out that the author questions the success of the women’s movement by depicting the situation when the Marlene is successful in business, however, did not found happiness in personal life (Churchill, 2013). Giving up family, private life, child, and a partner, Marlene aims to compete with men and wins, however, there is no happiness in this choice. The balance was not found as it is not enough for the woman to be equal in order to be happy.


Churchill, C. (2013). Top girls. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

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