Top Girls

by

Caryl Churchill

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Top Girls: Act One, Scene Three Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In Marlene’s sister Joyce’s backyard, two girls—Angie, who is sixteen, and Kit, who is twelve—play in a “shelter made of junk.” The girls hear Joyce calling for Angie, and Angie tells Kit that she wishes Joyce was dead. Kit asks Angie if she wants to go to the movies, but Angie says her mother won’t let her. Kit offers to pay for them to go, or to ask Joyce on Angie’s behalf, but Angie says that Joyce doesn’t like Kit. Kit says she’ll go by herself, but Angie tells the younger girl she won’t be allowed to go unsupervised. Kit asserts that Angie is the one that Joyce doesn’t like; Angie replies that she doesn’t like Joyce in the first place.
Angie and her friend Kit’s relationship is strange and combative. The girls do not seem to like each other very much, and would rather challenge one another or pick on each other than actually do something fun. The dissonance of this female friendship, even though the girls are young, represents the dissonance Churchill sensed in the feminism of the early 1980s; a world in which women preferred to tear each other down in pursuit of individual success rather than come together and bolster one another.
Themes
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Joyce calls for Angie, telling her to come inside. Angie doesn’t answer, or move. She tells Kit that last night, while she was lying in bed, a picture of her grandmother fell off the wall; Angie believes she can make things move without touching them. Kit is skeptical. Angie tells Kit that she heard the ghost of a dead kitten she had once meowing in the yard. Kit tells Angie she’s lying, and Angie accuses Kit of being scared. Kit tells Angie that she’s sitting too close—Angie tells Kit to get off of her, and Kit tells Angie she hates her. Angie replies that she is going to kill her mother and make Kit watch. Angie teases Kit for being scared of blood. Kit puts her hand under her dress, and pulls it back out, covered in blood. Angie licks Kit’s finger, proudly declaring herself a cannibal.
Angie’s strange beliefs about her powers seem to be intended only to spook Kit and gain some sort of upper hand in their friendship. Again, this is symbolic of the ways in which women attempt to dominate and suppress one another. The unsettling moment in which Angie licks Kit’s menstrual blood off of Kit’s fingers is highly symbolic, as well; it shows how codependent the girls are in spite of their meanness towards one another, and implies that they need one another more than they realize—they exist, it seems, largely in their own world.
Themes
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Angie demands that when she gets her own period, Kit must lick her bloody fingers, too. Kit refuses. Angie tells Kit that if she doesn’t get away from home, she’s going to die. Kit tells Angie she’s going to leave; Angie warns her not to go through the house, or else Joyce will know they’ve been playing together in the yard. Kit and Angie begin arguing, but Angie shushes her—Joyce has come out of the house, and is in the yard. She calls sweetly for the girls to come inside for tea and cookies; when there is no response, she calls Angie a “fucking rotten little cunt,” and tells her she can “stay there and die.” Joyce goes back into the house, and Kit and Angie sit in silence.
Joyce’s Jekyll-and-Hyde monologue in this scene reveals her deep frustration with her child, Angie. Joyce clearly has trouble controlling Angie. She tries being sweet to her as a way of coaxing Angie out, but when that doesn’t work, Joyce just gives up entirely and instead berates her daughter for being horrible, spoiled, and mean. 
Themes
Motherhood Theme Icon
Kit asks Angie where the safest place is during a war. Angie tells her nowhere is safe. Kit says that New Zealand must be safe, and asks if Angie wants to go there with her. Angie tells Kit she’s not old enough to go; Kit retorts that it’s Angie who isn’t old enough. The two begin bickering about whether or not they should go; eventually Angie reveals that she’s going to “do something else anyway,” but that it’s a secret. Kit presses Angie to tell her what it is; when Angie refuses, Kit says that there’s “something wrong” with Angie, and calls her a bad influence.
The girls’ chilling interactions and strange speculations reveal their deep anxieties about the world they live in, and how they might survive such a bleak and treacherous place.
Themes
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
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Angie twists Kit’s arm and tells her to admit she’s a liar. Kit refuses, and Angie lets her go. Angie says she doesn’t care about Kit, because she’s going to leave; one morning, everyone will wake up and find that Angie has gone. Kit asks Angie where she’s going, and Angie tells her she’s going to London to see her aunt. When Kit says she sees her own aunt all the time and asks what’s so special about Angie going to visit hers, Angie replies that her aunt is special and nice, though Joyce hates her. When Kit asks repetitively what’s so special about Marlene, Angie answers that she thinks her aunt is actually her biological mother.
Angie’s belief that she is Marlene’s child seems, at first, to be ridiculous, given the context of her behavior in the rest of the scene. This claim, though, is perhaps driving some of Angie’s peculiar language and behavior, and is maybe what is behind her deep frustration with her mother and her anxieties about her relationships with other girls and women.
Themes
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The girls curl up in each other’s arms and sit in silence. Joyce comes out of the house and approaches the shed. She tells Kit that it’s time to go home. Kit protests that they want to go see a movie, but Joyce insists that Angie needs to clean her room before the girls go anywhere. After a brief argument, Angie goes inside to tidy up. Joyce makes conversation with Kit, asking her about school, and wondering aloud whether Angie should have stayed on. She laments that Angie will have difficulty, as a dropout, getting a job. She worries that Angie is “one of those girls might never leave home.”  Joyce asks Kit whether Kit has any friends her own age; Kit replies she’s too clever and mature for friends her age. Joyce worries that Angie is simple. Kit, defending her friend, declares that she loves Angie.
Despite Kit and Angie’s contentious and occasionally cruel relationship, this scene makes it clear that Kit is fiercely protective of Angie. Kit seems to know how cruel Joyce can be to Angie, and doesn’t want to hear any of Joyce’s talk about Angie being slow, burdensome, or inadequate. As Joyce confides in her daughter’s best friend—a twelve-year-old child—about her fears for Angie, it becomes clear that Joyce’s anxieties about Angie’s trajectory in life extend beyond the norm.
Themes
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Angie comes back out of the house—she has changed into a fancy dress, which is too small for her. Joyce asks why Angie has put the dress on just to clean her room. Angie picks up a brick from the ground. Kit tells Angie it’s time to go to the movies. Joyce insists Angie finish cleaning her room first. Kit observes that it is beginning to rain. Joyce urges Angie to go inside and finish cleaning her room, then runs inside to avoid the rain. Kit follows her, but Angie stays where she is as the rain starts coming down. Kit pokes her head out of the house and urges Angie to come inside. Angie says that she “put on this dress to kill [her] mother.” Kit asks Angie if she was planning to do it with the brick; Angie puts the brick down.
Angie ceremoniously dressing up in her Sunday best to kill her mother is a strange and grotesque image. Angie clearly feels stifled, unloved, and misunderstood, and wants to take direct action to escape her circumstances. Murder, though, is not the right course of action, as Kit points out. Angie’s strange and violent impulse, though, creates a startling image and sets up the central dramatic question of the play’s second half: what mothers owe their children, and what happens when children feel they’ve been cheated, mistreated, or abandoned.
Themes
Motherhood Theme Icon