Essay-style Questions: Top Girls

1. How far does Top Girls show the limitations of women within British society? Is this a pessimistic view?


State what your opinion is in answer to both of the questions
Top Girls deals with the limitations within society, both
at home and in the workplace. Although it deals largely with women, the
play is also a consideration of the limitations of society in general. It
is not so much a pessimistic play as one that displays pessimism in people’s
Limitations of women.
State what the limitations of women are.
The work setting of Top Girls shows that it is rarer and
more difficult for a woman to gain promotion than a man. Marlene shows this
in her speech in Act One where she states that the characters present, including
herself, have made extraordinary achievements.
Give another limitation.
Work is a place where jealousy and competition thrive…this
puts women in opposing positions.
Balance pessimism with possibilities for optimism and opportunity.
Marlene has proven that barriers can be overcome. She has
done this through personal sacrifice and social and financial necessity.
However, she is setting a precedent within her personal sphere of work.

Give another example
Marlene has been given choice through access to contraception
and abortion. However, the society in which she lives provides little support
for her to pursue an independent career and maintain her children. Her relationships
are not permanent or emotionally and financially supportive. So, how much
choice did a woman faced with these factors feel she had?
State Marlene’s main concerns
Marlene’s primary concerns are her achievements in her
career and being able to achieve self-sufficiency. She does this at the
cost of contact with her family, conforming very much to Thatcher’s
idea of the world being made up of individuals. This individualism carries
with it the breakdown of the family and social unit in order to achieve
in the workplace, economically.
State the main concerns for woman: what is Churchill trying
to show?
Through Top Girls, Churchill is trying to show that women
have achieved a lot more equality throughout time, and particularly in the
period covered by the latter Acts of the play. The main downfall of all
her characters is that to some extent men infringe upon their situations,
whether emotionally or practically. Churchill demonstrates that there is
still a lot of room for advances to be made in the cause of feminism: that
women should not have to choose between career or children. She also presents
the notion that the way society works should be supportive rather than developing
unhelpful individualism and competition.
What are the main ways in which Churchill shows pessimism
in the society in which women live?
The main ways in which Churchill demonstrates pessimism are
through her presentation of women, who are strong characters, but yet who
are talking about men. Their experiences as women are sometimes very similar,
but instead of being supportive their relationships with each other concerning
important issues are very fragmented…

Sum up and enforce your opinion
Overall, Top Girls is optimistic in presenting these issues
to an audience. They may be pessimistic issues, with a long history, and
the play written in only the recent past, but the issues raised are provocative,
and encourage the questioning of the limits of equality. In questioning
society, Churchill is political and demands that her audience question and
react to the issues she raises.