The central protagonist of Top Girls, who has just been promoted to managing director at the employment agency where she works. Marlene’s career ambitions have led her to abandon her family, including her daughter, Angie, who was instead raised by Marlene's sister, Joyce.
An English woman who lived from 1831-1904. She was an avid explorer and travelled all around the world between the ages of 40 and 70. She wrote extensively about her experiences abroad. Bird married late in life because of her professional aspirations, but her husband died short of their 5-year anniversary. She is one of Marlene's dinner guests in Act I.
A concubine to the Emperor of Japan in the 13th Century, and later, a Buddhist nun. She had 4 children, all of whom were taken away from her. She is one of Marlene's dinner guests in Act I.
The subject of Brueghel's famous painting called Dulle Griet, which depicts a woman in an apron and armor leading an army of women in battle against a horde of demons in Hell. She is one of Marlene's dinner guests in Act I.
A legendary Englishwoman believed to have disguised herself as a man and served as the Pope from 854-856. Joan is brilliant and well-versed in philosophy, theology, metaphysics, and poetry. Her reign as Pope ended tragically - she revealed her gender when she gave birth during a public procession and was subsequently stoned to death. She is one of Marlene's dinner guests in Act I.
She is based on the character of the obedient wife in the “Clerk’s Tale” from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In Chaucer’s story, Griselda marries a Marquis who tests her fidelity by taking her children from her. She remains obedient, and the Marquis eventually rewards her by reuniting her with her children. She is one of Marlene's dinner guests in Act I.
A twenty-year-old woman who Marlene interviews at Top Girls. Jeanine wants to save money for a wedding and eventually have children. Marlene takes this to mean that Jeanine lacks career ambitions and therefore, Marlene treats her as an inferior.
Angie’s adoptive mother and Marlene’s sister. Joyce and Marlene do not get along well. Joyce raised Angie because Marlene wanted to escape Ipswich and pursue a career. Joyce represents the perspective of the working class. However, she is not a particularly sympathetic character and is very resentful of her sister.
Marlene's 16-year-old biological daughter who was adopted by Marlene's sister, Joyce. She is aggressive and unintelligent and spends most of her time with her younger neighbor, Kit. Angie makes an unexpected visit to London to see Marlene (whom she believes to be her aunt) because she aspires to be like her.
Angie’s younger next-door neighbor and closest friend. Kit is a bright girl with academic ambitions.
One of the female employees at Top Girls. She is focused on her career.
One of the female employees at Top Girls. She is also career-driven and is jealous of Marlene's promotion.
A forty-six year old woman interviewing at Top Girls. She wants a new job after twnety-one years at a firm that does not truly value her experience, but Win feels that her age will make it difficult to find her a new position.
The wife of Howard Kidd, Marlene's co-worker. Mrs. Kidd visits Marlene at the Top Girls office to request Marlene to give up her promotion since Howard has worked at the firm longer and has a family to look after.
A young girl who interviews with Nell. Nell is impressed with her until she discovers that Shona has falsified her background and actually has no experience at all.
Top Girls Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Top Girls is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Alone, Marlene sits wrapped in a blanket and pours herself another drink. Angie comes into the room and calls out “Mum?” Marlene says “Angie? What’s the matter?” and again Angie calls out “Mum?” Marlene replies, “Not, she’s gone to bed. It’s Aunty...