Top Girls

Top Girls Summary and Analysis of Act 2, Scene 2


Act 2, Scene 2 is set in Joyce’s backyard. The house and its back door are upstage, and downstage, Angie and Kit are hiding in a shelter that they have made out of junk. Joyce calls out to Angie, who is presumably her daughter. The girls remain silent until Joyce goes back inside, and Angie says she wishes Joyce were dead. Kit asks Angie if she wants to see a movie called The Exterminator, which is rated X. Angie worries that she can’t afford to pay for the movie and that her mom won’t let them go. Kit offers to pay for the tickets with her birthday money. Joyce calls out to Angie again and the girls again ignore her.

Angie begins to tease Kit, claiming to be able to make pictures fall off walls just by thinking about it, and that she has been hearing the calls of a dead kitten at night. Kit doesn't believe her, and Angie calls Kit a baby. The two girls begin cursing at each other. Angie tells Kit she’s going to kill Joyce and make Kit watch, because she knows that Kit is scared of blood. Kit pricks her finger to show Angie she isn’t scared, and Angie licks the blood from the finger, calling herself a cannibal. The two keep arguing, and Kit tells Angie that her mom doesn’t like Angie. Angie calls Kit’s mom a “slag” who “does it with everyone” and Angie says Kit doesn’t even know what “it” is. Joyce comes out of the house and listens to their adolescent bickering, then asks the girls if they want to come in for chocolate biscuits and tea. All three listen and wait, and when the girls don’t respond Joyce shouts, “Fucking rotten little cunt. You can stay there and die.” Joyce goes back inside and the girls remain in the shelter.

Kit tells Angie she worries about the outbreak of war, and wonders what would be the safest place to hide. Angie thinks that New Zealand would be the best place. Kit and Angie start arguing about war, and Kit tells Angie that her mom thinks it’s bad for her to be playing with Angie because she isn’t Kit’s age and is a bad influence. Angie twists Kit’s arm until she cries out, telling her to say that she’s a liar and that she eats shit. Kit threatens to leave, and to stop her, Angie offers to share a secret with her young friend. Angie is planning to go to London to see her aunt, who is presumably Marlene. Angie says her mother hates her aunt, but Angie thinks Marlene is special because “she gets people jobs.” She tells Kit that she thinks her aunt is really her mother and her mother, Joyce, is really her aunt.

Joyce comes outside and surprises the girls, telling Kit to go home. Kit tells Joyce that the girls want to go to the Odeon to see a movie, but Joyce insists that Angie must clean her room first, and Angie goes inside alone. Meanwhile, Joyce and Kit discuss Angie's prospects now that she has dropped out of school. Joyce is worried that Angie won’t find a job or get married because of her lack of education. Kit, however, aspires to become nuclear physicist because she’s clever. When Angie comes back out, she is wearing an old dress that is slightly small for her. Joyce mocks Angie's look and tells her she can’t go to the movies until her room is clean. Angie picks up a brick, and Kit says to Angie “let’s go.” It begins to rain and Joyce and Kit run inside while Angie stays put. Kit quickly runs back out to her friend. Angie tells Kit, “I put on this dress to kill my mother” and Kit responds “I suppose you thought you’d do it with a brick.”


In Act 2, Scene 1, Churchill explores the aggression and alienation that can arise in female friendships and mother-daughter relationships. The girls' "shelter" represents a childhood desire for protection and escape from the complications of adult life. Angie harbors a great deal of resentment towards her mother, Joyce, and the shelter is a safe, fantastical space where the girls can speak openly and indulge their imaginations. When Joyce calls out to the girls - they do not answer. In this way, the shelter is a physical barrier between childhood whimsy and adult exasperation.

As Angie and Kit talk, however, it becomes clear that the girls are curious about things associated with the autonomy of adulthood. They want to go see an X-rated movie, for instance, but Angie teases Kit that there is no way she’ll be let into the theater on her own because she looks too young. Angie worries about not having enough money to see the movie, and Kit tells her that she can pay with the three pounds she’s received in birthday money. Angie doesn’t want Kit to pay for her, most likely because it would mean seeing Kit, who is several years younger than Angie, in a position of relative power over Angie. Their relationship is a microcosmic representation of the play’s larger themes of female financial independence, competition, and friendship.

Angie and Kit’s frustrations over money and the movie spill over into displays of aggression toward each other and toward Joyce, Angie’s mother. Angie worries that Joyce won’t let her go to the movies even though Angie seems old enough to go alone, so Kit offers to ask Joyce instead. This strikes Angie as a display of assertiveness by Kit, so Angie viciously responds by telling Kit that Joyce “don’t like you.” Kit disagrees, and tells Angie that in fact “It’s you she doesn’t like.” Both girls want to rebel against Joyce, the presiding authority figure in this scene - and their defiance reaches its zenith when Joyce calls for the girls, but they sit quietly and ignore her. Joyce, meanwhile, responds to their obstinate silence by exploding angrily at her daughter, which prompts Angie to say that she is going to kill Joyce, and make Kit watch. Angie, like Marlene, does not respect Joyce or her role as a mother. Rather, Angie looks up to Marlene, who possesses independence, elegance, and power.

Meanwhile, Joyce’s aggression towards Marlene actually increases Angie’s attraction to her, and feeds into Angie’s hatred of her mother. Churchill does not reveal the source of the animosity that between Joyce and Marlene until the final scene of the play, but in this scene, it is clear that Angie is intuitive enough to catch onto the rivalry between the sisters. This scene emphasizes the play’s theme of the difficulty of balancing motherhood and a career. Marlene has chosen one path - her career, and because of this choice, she has forced Joyce into the more commonly traveled path - as a mother. However, Joyce's resentment of her sister has become toxic to the point that it has poisoned everything else in her life, including her relationship with Angie.

Eventually, Joyce sneaks up and surprises the girls, and sends Angie away to clean her room. The ensuing conversation between Kit and Joyce is revealing; Joyce displays contempt for her own daughter, saying Angie’s not smart or capable enough to get a job. Joyce even tells Kit she feels “sorry for anyone in charge of her” and assumes that nobody will ever want to marry her. Kit, meanwhile, is clearly an intelligent and ambitious young girl, who tells Joyce she wants to be a nuclear physicist when she grows up. This upsets Joyce, who seems to envy Kit and to regret the fact that Angie is not nearly as capable as the younger girl. When Kit tells Joyce that she loves Angie, Joyce finds this hard to believe and remains frustrated by Kit’s superior intelligence and potential. Joyce therefore insults Kit by telling her that Angie is “always kind to little children,” which implies that Kit is just a silly young girl. The animosity between all three characters reaches a fever pitch when Angie picks up a brick and tells Kit that she “put on this dress to kill my mother” – the dress that we eventually learn was a present from Marlene. Angie can no longer control her frustration with her life and it is taking a heavy toll on her psyche.