What is the dinner scene about?
| In the first scene, Churchill assembles historical women to recount to one another the travels, intellectual accomplishments, and love affairs that have made them "top girls". First, they share their extraordinary achievements. However, the table talk changes to reveal instances of suffering and loss by each of these women. Isabella's travels prevented her from forming close relationships and short periods of agony when she returns home between her travels. Nijo gave up three of her children by lovers other than the Emperor, and was denied the privilege of seeing her father on his death bed. Gret lost children in a murderous invading army. Pope Joan had pretended to be a man so long, she didn't recognize what it felt like to be a woman. She was stoned to death when she had a disastorous public childbirth. Griselda was forced to prove her loyalty to her husband by allowing her children killed (or so she thought), and renouncing all the privileges of her postion. This scene points in the direction of where the play leads. Until the last scene, Marlene is represented as a "top girl", displaying the achievements she has made in her career, the power she has, and the idol position she has to Angie. In the last scene, however, it is revealed that Marlene is the mother ofAngie, having chosen to give her up, and has had two abortions.
| 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...
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