Top Girls


Caryl Churchill

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Themes and Colors
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Top Girls, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Life Under the Patriarchy

Top Girls is an exploration of what it means to carve out a life within a patriarchal society. The dreamlike opening scene in which Marlene, a successful London businesswoman celebrating a recent promotion, hosts a dinner party whose guests include women from the Europe of the Middle Ages, nineteenth-century England, and thirteenth-century Japan, as well as women who are the subjects of famous paintings and stories composed by men, shows how patriarchy has affected—and…

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Women’s Stories

The full range of women’s stories is on display in Top Girls as the play moves from the metaphysical world of power-hungry businesswoman Marlene’s fantasies to her fast-paced corporate London life. Churchill uses the play’s opening dinner-party sequence to demonstrate the range, vitality, and necessity of women’s stories. As she showcases women’s stories, both fictional and nonfictional, Churchill argues that, in a world controlled by the patriarchy, sharing stories is perhaps the greatest currency…

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Power, Success, and Individualism

The character at the center of Top Girls is Marlene—a successful businesswoman whose hunger for power forms the framework for the play’s action. As the drama unfolds, the audience begins to realize bit by bit just how much Marlene has sacrificed for her career. Set in the early 1980s, just a few years after the controversial Margaret Thatcher (who famously said that there was “no such thing” as society, only individual men and women…

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Top Girls features many different types of mothers, but Marlene is one of the only characters who sees motherhood as an insufferable burden. The journeys to and through motherhood that Churchill explores are vastly different, and yet the story of Marlene—who asked her sister Joyce to raise her daughter, Angie, for her so that she could pursue a career—specifically suggests that in a world shaped by patriarchy, motherhood is most often framed as a…

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