Top Girls

by

Caryl Churchill

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Top Girls can help.

Joyce Character Analysis

Joyce is Marlene’s sister and Angie’s adoptive mother. Whereas Marlene is ambitious, self-serving, and cosmopolitan, Joyce is humble, giving, and rooted firmly in her small, working-class hometown. Joyce is not by any means happy about these differences between herself and her sister—she doesn’t begrudge Marlene her success so much as she disagrees with the choices Marlene has made in pursuit of it. Joyce has, for the last sixteen years, been raising Marlene’s child—and caring for their aging, ailing parents. Joyce, who did not possess her sister’s ambitious drive or cutthroat approach to self-advancement, has been stuck with all of Marlene’s shirked responsibilities, and has suffered greatly as a result. Churchill uses the character of Joyce to show the flip side of Thatcherism’s effects; that is, to demonstrate that those left behind by individualistic ambition must bear the burdens sloughed off by the wealthy and powerful upper classes.

Joyce Quotes in Top Girls

The Top Girls quotes below are all either spoken by Joyce or refer to Joyce. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of Top Girls published in 1982.
Act One, Scene Three Quotes

ANGIE: I’m going to London. To see my aunt.

KIT: And what?

ANGIE: That’s it.

KIT: I see my aunt all the time.

ANGIE: I don’t see my aunt.

KIT: What’s so special?

ANGIE: It is special. She’s special.

KIT: Why?

ANGIE: She is.

KIT: Why?

ANGIE: She is.

KIT: Why?

ANGIE: My mother hates her.

KIT: Why?

ANGIE: Because she does.

KIT: Perhaps she’s not very nice.

ANGIE: She is nice.

KIT: How do you know?

ANGIE: Because I know her.

KIT: You said you never see her.

ANGIE: I saw her last year. You saw her.

KIT: Did I?

ANGIE: Never mind.

KIT: I remember her. That aunt. What’s so special?

ANGIE: She gets people jobs.

KIT: What’s so special?

ANGIE: I think I’m my aunt’s child. I think my mother’s really my aunt.

Related Characters: Angie (speaker), Kit (speaker), Marlene, Joyce
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two, Scene One Quotes

MARLENE: Don’t you have to go home?

ANGIE: No.

MARLENE: Why not?

ANGIE: It’s all right.

MARLENE: Is it all right?

ANGIE: Yes, don’t worry about it.

MARLENE: Does Joyce know where you are?

ANGIE: Yes of course she does.

MARLENE: Well does she?

ANGIE: Don’t worry about it.

MARLENE: How long are you planning to stay with me then?

ANGIE: You know when you came to see us last year?

MARLENE: Yes, that was nice wasn’t it.

ANGIE: That was the best day of my whole life.

MARLENE: So how long are you planning to stay?

ANGIE: Don’t you want me?

MARLENE: Yes yes, I just wondered.

ANGIE: I won’t stay if you don’t want me.

MARLENE: No, of course you can stay.

ANGIE: I’ll sleep on the floor. I won’t be any bother.

MARLENE: Don’t get upset.

ANGIE: I’m not, I’m not. Don’t worry about it.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Angie (speaker), Joyce
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two, Scene Two Quotes

JOYCE: [Kit’s] a little girl Angie sometimes plays with because she’s the only child lives really close. She’s like a little sister to her really. Angie’s good with little children.

MARLENE: Do you want to work with children, Angie? Be a teacher or nursery nurse?

JOYCE: I don’t think she’s ever thought of it.

MARLENE: What do you want to do?

JOYCE: She hasn’t got an idea in her head what she wants to do. Lucky to get anything.

JOYCE: True enough.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Joyce (speaker), Angie, Kit
Page Number: 82-83
Explanation and Analysis:

JOYCE: You couldn’t get out of here fast enough.

MARLENE: Of course I couldn’t get out of here fast enough. What was I going to do? Marry a dairyman who’d come home pissed? Don’t you fucking this

JOYCE: Christ.

MARLENE: fucking that fucking bitch fucking tell me what to fucking do fucking.

JOYCE: I don’t know how you could leave your own child.

MARLENE: You were quick enough to take her.

JOYCE: What does that mean?

MARLENE: You were quick enough to take her?

JOYCE: Or what? Have her put in a home? Have some stranger take her would you rather?

MARLENE: You couldn’t have one so you took mine.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Joyce (speaker), Angie
Page Number: 89-90
Explanation and Analysis:

JOYCE: Listen when Angie was six months I did get pregnant and I lost it because I was so tired looking after your fucking baby because she cried so

MARLENE: You never told me.

JOYCE much—yes I did tell you—and the doctor

MARLENE: Well I forgot.

JOYCE: said if I’d sat down all day with my feet up I’d’ve kept it and that’s the only chance I ever had because after that—

MARLENE: I’ve had two abortions, are you interested? Shall I tell you about them? Well I won’t, it’s boring, it wasn’t a problem. I don’t like messy talk about blood and what a bad time we all had. I

JOYCE: If I hadn’t had your baby. The doctor said.

MARLENE: don’t want a baby. I don’t want to talk about gynaecology.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Joyce (speaker), Angie
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

JOYCE: You can always find yourself work then?

MARLENE: That’s right.

JOYCE: And men?

MARLENE: Oh there’s always men.

JOYCE: No-one special?

MARENE: There’s fellas who like to be seen with a high-flying lady. Shows they’ve got something really good in their pants. But they can’t take the day to day. They’re waiting for me to turn into the little woman.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Joyce (speaker)
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

MARLENE. I think the eighties are going to be stupendous.

JOYCE: Who for?

MARLENE: For me. I think I’m going up up up.

JOYCE: Oh for you. Yes, I’m sure they will.

MARLENE: And for the country, come to that. Get the economy back on its feet and whoosh. She’s a tough lady, Maggie. I’d give her a job. She just needs to hang

JOYCE: You voted for them, did you?

MARLENE: in there. This country needs to stop whining. Monetarism is not

JOYCE: Drink your tea and shut up, pet.

MARLENE: stupid. It takes time, determination. No more slop. And

JOYCE: Well I think they’re filthy bastards.

MARLENE: who’s got to drive it on? First woman prime minister. Terrifico. Aces. Right on. You must admit. Certainly gets my vote.

JOYCE: What good’s first woman if it’s her? I suppose you’d have liked Hitler if he was a woman. […] Great adventures.

MARLENE: Bosses still walking on the worker’s faces? Still dada’s little parrot? Haven’t you learned to think for yourself? I believe in the individual. Look at me.

JOYCE: I am looking at you.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Joyce (speaker)
Page Number: 94-95
Explanation and Analysis:

MARLENE: I hate the working class which is what

JOYCE: Yes you do.

MARLENE: you’re going to go on about now, it doesn’t exist any more, it means lazy and stupid. I don’t

JOYCE: Come on, now we’re getting it.

MARLENE: like the way they talk. I don’t like beer guts and football vomit and saucy tits and brothers and sisters—

JOYCE: I spit when I see a Rolls Royce, scratch it with my ring Mercedes it was.

MARLENE: Oh very mature—

JOYCE: I hate the cows I work for and their dirty dishes with blanquette of fucking veau.

MARLENE: and I will not be pulled down to their level by a flying picket and I won’t be sent to Siberia or a loony bin just because I’m original. And I support

JOYCE: No, you’ll be on a yacht, you’ll be head of Coca Cola and you wait, the eighties is going to be stupendous all right because we’ll get you lot off our backs—

MARLENE: Reagan even if he is a lousy movie star because the reds are swarming up his map and I want to be free in a free world—

JOYCE: What? What?

MARLENE: I know what I mean by that—not shut up here.

JOYCE: So don’t be round here when it happens because if someone’s kicking you I’ll just laugh.

(silence)

MARLENE: I don’t mean anything personal. I don’t believe in class. Anyone can do anything if they’ve got what it takes.

JOYCE: And if they haven’t?

MARLENE: If they’re stupid or lazy or frightened, I’m not going to help them get a job, why should I?

JOYCE: What about Angie?

MARLENE: What about Angie?

JOYCE: She’s stupid, lazy and frightened, so what about her?

MARLENE: You run her down too much. She’ll be all right.

JOYCE: I don’t expect so, no. I expect her children will say what a wasted life she had. If she has children. Because nothing’s changed and it won’t with them in.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Joyce (speaker), Angie
Page Number: 96-97
Explanation and Analysis:

ANGIE: Mum?

MARLENE: Angie? What’s the matter?

ANGIE: Mum?

MARLENE: No, she’s gone to bed. It’s Aunty Marlene.

ANGIE: Frightening.

MARLENE: Did you have a bad dream? What happened in it? Well you’re awake now, aren’t you, pet?

ANGIE: Frightening.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Angie (speaker), Joyce
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Top Girls LitChart as a printable PDF.
Top Girls PDF

Joyce Character Timeline in Top Girls

The timeline below shows where the character Joyce appears in Top Girls. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One, Scene Three
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
In Marlene’s sister Joyce’s backyard, two girls—Angie, who is sixteen, and Kit, who is twelve—play in a “shelter made... (full context)
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Joyce calls for Angie, telling her to come inside. Angie doesn’t answer, or move. She tells... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Act Two, Scene One
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...she got past the receptionist; Angie says she just walked right in. Marlene asks if Joyce is with her; Angie replies that Joyce is at home. Marlene asks if Angie is... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...her up for the night, and Angie says she’d like that. Marlene wonders aloud why Joyce wouldn’t have called to let her know Angie was coming, but concedes that it’s “like... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
...why not, but Angie tells her not to worry about it. Marlene asks Angie if Joyce knows where Angie is, and Angie again tells Marlene not to worry about it. Marlene... (full context)
Act Two, Scene Two
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
The action flashes back to one year earlier; Marlene, Joyce, and Angie are in Joyce’s kitchen. Marlene is pulling numerous presents out of a bag... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
As soon as Angie is out of the room, Joyce chides Marlene for dropping in unannounced, but Marlene is surprised to hear that Joyce didn’t... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Marlene offers to leave, but Joyce teases that she doesn’t mind seeing Marlene now that she’s here. She tells Marlene that... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
...comes back in wearing the dress, and Marlene compliments her on how pretty she looks. Joyce tells her to take it off so that she doesn’t get it dirty. Angie protests... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...walks into the house “as if she lives there,” inserting herself right into the action. Joyce introduces Kit to “Angie’s Aunt Marlene.” Kit seems uninterested in Marlene’s presence, and instead asks... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Marlene pulls a bottle of whiskey out of her bag, and though Joyce protests at first, she eventually gets some glasses down so the two can have a... (full context)
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Marlene asks Joyce to catch her up on all the neighborhood gossip—Angie is confused as the women trade... (full context)
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
While Angie is out of the room, Joyce states that she doesn’t know any of Marlene’s business—so it’s only fair that Marlene doesn’t... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Joyce and Marlene talk idly about the weather and the neighborhood, and Joyce is a bit... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Joyce asks Marlene what the secret was; Marlene replies that it’s a secret. Joyce says she... (full context)
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Marlene tells Joyce that she arrived in the country this morning, and spent the day visiting their mother... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Marlene suggests that Joyce would feel better about things if she didn’t go to visit their mother every week;... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...argue back and forth about marriage and child-rearing; Marlene keeps insisting that she essentially did Joyce a favor by allowing Joyce to take Angie and raise her as her own. She... (full context)
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Joyce confesses that when Angie was six months old, she did become pregnant on her own—but... (full context)
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Marlene confesses that she was afraid of fighting with Joyce when she made plans to visit, and she breaks down in tears. Joyce attempts to... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Marlene asks Joyce what happened with her husband—Joyce reveals he was cheating on her incessantly, and she kicked... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...the country’s economy is going to get back on its feet thanks to Margaret Thatcher. Joyce urges Marlene to drink her tea and shut up. Marlene keeps going, though, saying it’s... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Marlene urges Joyce to stop quarreling with her over politics. Joyce, though, doesn’t want for Marlene to blame... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Marlene asks if Joyce is going to accuse her of hating the working class, and then outright admits that... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Joyce asks what Marlene would do about Angie, then, who is “stupid, lazy, and frightened.” Marlene... (full context)
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Marlene asks Joyce if they can stop fighting—she says she “didn’t really mean” any of what she said.... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
...what the matter is, and Angie again asks for her mother. Marlene tells Angie that Joyce has gone to bed, and reminds Angie that she is only her “Aunty Marlene.” “Frightening,”... (full context)