Top Girls

by

Caryl Churchill

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Top Girls Employment Agency Symbol Analysis

Top Girls Employment Agency Symbol Icon

Marlene works for an employment agency called Top Girls, which slowly emerges as a symbol for the corruption and blind individualism of Thatcherism, as well as the rigged game of life under the patriarchy. The name of the agency, Top Girls, is cutesy and condescending. It points directly to the futility of trying to succeed as a woman in the cruel and misogynistic corporate world—even if a woman makes it to the pinnacle of her profession, she is only a “Top Girl.” She is infantilized, patronized, and she will inevitably hit the glass ceiling—the unofficial but universally acknowledged barrier to advancement which women, minorities, and other marginalized groups unfortunately but inevitably face even in today’s corporate world, and especially in the conservative, Thatcherist word of 1980s England.

The fact that Top Girls is an employment agency rather than a bank, a law firm, or a medical practice is also significant symbolically. The agency has ostensibly feminist goals and an apparent focus on women’s achievements, as the whole point of Top Girls is to place women in the workforce. In oiling the wheels of capitalism and inserting more and more women into the workforce, where they will be pressured to prioritize labor over family, individualism over collectivism, and financial gain over emotional or moral improvement, Top Girls actually perpetuates the structures that allow women to be abused at worst and underestimated at best as they pursue success within the constricting, unfair confines of patriarchy and capitalism alike.

Top Girls Employment Agency Quotes in Top Girls

The Top Girls quotes below all refer to the symbol of Top Girls Employment Agency. 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 One Quotes

MARLENE: Magnificent all of you. We need some more wine, please, two bottles I think, Griselda isn’t even here yet, and I want to drink a toast to you all.

ISABELLA: To yourself surely, we’re here to celebrate your success.

NIJO: Yes, Marlene.

JOAN: Yes, what is it exactly, Marlene?

MARLENE: Well it’s not Pope but it is managing director.

JOAN: And you find work for people.

MARLENE: Yes, an employment agency.

NIJO: Over all the women you work with. And the men.

ISABELLA: And very well deserved too. I’m sure it’s just the beginning of something extraordinary.

MARLENE: Well it’s worth a party.

ISABELLA: To Marlene.

MARLENE: And all of us.

JOAN: Marlene.

NIJO: Marlene.

GRET: Marlene.

MARLENE: We’ve all come a long way. To our courage and the way we changed our lives and our extraordinary achievements. (They laugh and drink a toast.)

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Isabella Bird (speaker), Lady Nijo (speaker), Dull Gret (speaker), Pope Joan (speaker), Patient Griselda
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two, Scene One Quotes

NELL: Howard thinks because he’s a fella the job was his as of right. Our Marlene’s got far more balls than Howard and that’s that.

WIN: Poor little bugger.

NELL: He’ll live.

WIN: He’ll move on.

NELL: I wouldn’t mind a change of air myself.

WIN: Serious?

NELL: I’ve never been a staying-put lady. Pastures new.

WIN: So who’s the pirate?

NELL: There’s nothing definite.

WIN: Inquiries?

NELL: There’s always inquiries. I’d think I’d got bad breath if there stopped being inquiries. Most of them can’t afford me. Or you.

WIN: I’m all right for the time being. Unless I go to Australia.

NELL: There’s not a lot of room upward.

WIN: Marlene’s filled it up.

Related Characters: Nell (speaker), Win (speaker), Marlene, Howard Kidd
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

WIN: So I take it the job itself no longer satisfies you. Is it the money?

LOUISE: It’s partly the money. It’s not so much the money.

[…]

WIN: So why are you making a change?

LOUISE: Other people make changes.

WIN: But why are you, now, after spending most of your life in the one place?

LOUISE: There you are, I’ve lived for that company, I’ve given my life really you could say because I haven’t had a great deal of social life, I’ve worked in the evenings. […] I had management status from the age of twenty-seven and you’ll appreciate what that means. I’ve built up a department. And there it is I, it works extremely well, and I feel I’m stuck there. I’ve spent twenty years in middle management. I’ve seen young men who I trained go on, in my own company or elsewhere, to higher things. Nobody notices me, I don’t expect it, I don’t attract attention by making mistakes, everybody takes it for granted that my work is perfect. They will notice me when I go, they will be sorry I think to lose me, they will offer me more money of course, I will refuse. They will see when I’ve gone what I was doing for them.

Related Characters: Win (speaker), Louise (speaker)
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 62-63
Explanation and Analysis:

ANGIE: This is where you work is it?

MARLENE: It’s where I have been working the last two years but I’m going to move into another office.

ANGIE: It’s lovely.

MARLENE: My new office is nicer than this. There’s just the one big desk in it for me.

ANGIE: Can I see it?

MARLENE: Not now, no, there’s someone else in it now. But he’s leaving at the end of next week and I’m going to do his job.

ANGIE: This is where you work is it?

MARLENE: It’s where I have been working the last two years but I’m going to move into another office.

ANGIE: It’s lovely.

MARLENE: My new office is nicer than this. There’s just the one big desk in it for me.

ANGIE: Can I see it?

MARLENE: Not now, no, there’s someone else in it now. But he’s leaving at the end of next week and I’m going to do his job.

ANGIE: Is that good?

MARLENE: Yes, it’s very good.

ANGIE: Are you going to be in charge?

MARLENE: Yes I am.

ANGIE: I knew you would be.

MARLENE: How did you know?

ANGIE: I knew you’d be in charge of everything.

MARLENE: Not quite everything.

ANGIE: You will be.

MARLENE: Well we’ll see.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker)
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 66-67
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

MRS. KIDD: Howard’s not in today.

MARLENE: Isn’t he?

MRS KIDD: He’s feeling poorly.

MARLENE: I didn’t know. I’m sorry to hear that.

MRS KIDD: The fact is he’s in a state of shock. About what’s happened.

MARLENE: What has happened?

MRS KIDD: You should know if anyone. I’m referring to you been appointed managing director instead of Howard. He hasn’t been at all well all weekend. He hasn’t slept for three nights. I haven’t slept.

MARLENE: I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Kidd. Has he thought of taking sleeping pills?

MRS KIDD: It’s very hard when someone has worked all these years.

MARLENE: Business life is full of little setbacks. I’m sure Howard knows that. He’ll bounce back in a day or two. We all bounce back.

MRS KIDD: If you could see him you’d know what I’m talking about. What’s it going to do to him working for a woman? I think if it was a man he’d get over it as something normal.

MARLENE: I think he’s going to have to get over it.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Mrs. Kidd (speaker), Howard Kidd
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 68-69
Explanation and Analysis:

MARLENE: Are you suggesting I give up the job to him then?

MRS KIDD: It had crossed my mind if you were unavailable for some reason, he would be the natural second choice I think, don’t you? I’m not asking.

MARLENE: Good.

MRS KIDD: You mustn’t tell him I came. He’s very proud.

MARLENE: If she doesn’t like what’s happening here he can go and work somewhere else.

MRS KIDD: Is that a threat?

MARLENE: I’m sorry but I do have some work to do.

MRS KIDD: It’s not easy, a man of Howard’s age. You don’t care. I thought he was going too far but he’s right. You’re one of those ball breakers, that’s what you

MARLENE: I’m sorry but I do have some work to do.

MRS KIDD: are. You’ll end up miserable and lonely. You’re not natural.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Mrs. Kidd (speaker), Howard Kidd
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

NELL: You find it easy to get the initial interest do you?

SHONA: Oh yeh, I get plenty of initial interest.

NELL: And what about closing?

SHONA: I close, don’t I?

NELL: Because that’s what an employer is going to have doubts about with a lady as I needn’t tell you, whether she’s got the guts to push through to a closing situation. They think we’re too nice. They think we listen to the buyer’s doubts. They think we consider his needs and feelings.

SHONA: I never consider people’s feelings.

NELL: I was selling for six years, I can sell anything, I’ve sold in three continents, and I’m jolly as they come but I’m not very nice.

SHONA: I’m not very nice.

Related Characters: Nell (speaker), Shona (speaker)
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

MARLENE: Is she asleep?

WIN: She wants to work here.

MARLENE: Packer in Tesco more like.

WIN: She’s a nice kid. Isn’t she?

MARLENE: She’s a bit thick. She’s a bit funny.

WIN: She thinks you’re wonderful.

MARLENE: She’s not going to make it.

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Win (speaker), Angie
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
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Top Girls Employment Agency Symbol Timeline in Top Girls

The timeline below shows where the symbol Top Girls Employment Agency appears in Top Girls. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One, Scene One
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...made Pope, she has been made managing director of her firm, an employment agency called Top Girls . Nijo admires Marlene for being promoted “over all the women [at the firm,] and... (full context)
Act One, Scene Two
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
It is Monday morning at the Top Girls Employment Agency. Marlene is meeting with a woman named Jeanine. She asks her about her... (full context)
Act Two, Scene One
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
It is Monday morning at the Top Girls Employment Agency. Win and Nell arrive for work. Nell prepares coffee while Win talks about... (full context)
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...offers Angie some food, but Angie declines. Angie asks Win how long she’s worked at Top Girls , and Win says she was headhunted from another office some time ago. Angie asks... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...is in prison, and she hardly ever sees him. She has found peace working at Top Girls , though, because she is able to offer her clients “hope.” (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...calls Howard a “poor sod.” Win tells Marlene that Angie wants to come work at Top Girls ; Marlene says Angie could only ever be a packer in a grocery store. Win... (full context)