Investigate notions of sisters and sisterhood within Top Girls

Investigate notions of sisters and sisterhood within Top Girls

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Investigate notions of sisters and sisterhood within Top Girls

In Act 1 the women at the dinner party, speak of their suffering in
the past, but they all relate to Marlene and to each other as a
sisterhood of the present, even though the women represent
contemporary figures supposedly alive in the early 1980’s in England.
Lady Nijo and Pope Joan are similar in that they both had babies in
difficult situations, and both stood up for their rights as women.

The portrayal of these women contrasts with the traditional and
‘classical’ representation of women in plays. In the past women
characters have been presented as dependent on men and limited by the
conversations of a male dominates world. A typical example of this is
seen in Hamlet by William Shakespeare, with both Gertrude and Ophelia
saying ‘I will obey my lord’ however in Top Girls the characters think
independently and believe in themselves and show support for their
sisters. The characters are individualised which is dramatically
interesting as they open to a new experience on the stage. The modern
women is shown in Top Girls to be living in the time of shifting
priorities and expectations, challenging the female ‘roles’. An
example of this is Louise in act 2 saying, ‘She has a different style,
she’s a new kind…’

Many themes that run throughout Top Girls relate to the time when the
play was written. An example of this and also an example of sisters in
the play is the argument between Joyce and Marlene. Marlene is an
individualistic and through her own determination and effort has
managed to lift herself out of working class environment to middle
class. Class structure, as seen by Marlene, is the cause of oppression
and the row between the sisters is exaggerated and simplified with
Marlene saying ‘I hat the working class’ and Joy replying ‘ I spit
when I see a Rolls Royce.’

Marlene shows support for Thatcher saying ‘She’s a tough lady,
Maggie…. Certainly gets my vote.’ Which can be interpreted as, her own
success could have been due to the encouragement and initiative of an
individual. Act 3 reveals aspects of Marlene’s life that could be
questioned. She left home at the age of 17, she cut herself of from
all family ties, she hasn’t been home for 6 years and Angie’s arrival
in the office is a complete inconvenience to her. In many respects
Joyce can be interpreted as a failure too, she is worn out, let down
by her husband and has a mixed success to look after Angie. The
history of the sister’s social and family background is grim.

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Marlene can be interpreted as being similar to Margaret Thatcher in
that, they both believe in the importance of individuals and Marlene
embraces the ‘enterprise culture’ encouraged by Thatcher and supports
Monetarism regardless of the consequences. Joyce and Angie represent
the section of society most in need of support.

The play Top Girls is a world of women’s experience shown from a
modern point of view. Women dominate all the locations of the play,
without the appearance of a single male. In Act one they take over the
restaurant, they take over the office (the traditional domain of the
male) and in Act 2 they ‘live’ in the kitchen, which is the
traditional domain of the female. Women are shown in relation to other
women, no matter of age and background.
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