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Feminism In "Top Girls" And "The Handmaid's Tale"

1594 words - 6 pages

Both Top Girls and The Handmaid’s Tale relate to contemporary political issues and feminism. Top Girls was written by Caryl Churchill, a political feminist playwright, as a response to Thatcher’s election as a first female British Prime Minister. Churchill was a British social feminist in opposition to Thatcherism. Top Girls was regarded as a unique play about the challenges working women face in the contemporary business world and society at large. Churchill once wrote: ‘Playwrights don’t give answers, they ask questions’, [6] and I think she is proving it in Top Girls: she brings up many tough questions over the course of the play, including what success is and if women’s progress in the workplace has been a good or bad thing.

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian feminist writer, who wrote The Handmaid’s Tale in times of the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, the rise of the religious rights, the election of Ronald Reagan and during the anti-feminist backlash in America of the 1980s. [9] The Handmaid’s Tale is a feminist dystopian novel, in which Atwood addresses the suppression of women in patriarchal culture. Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale to illustrate what might happen in the future if anti-feminism goes to the extreme with claims such as 'it is every man’s right to rule supreme at home' and 'a woman’s place is in the home'. [7] She sets the story in a pseudo-religious totalitarian society. The narrator of the story, Offred is describing in her diary the life of women in the society in the theocratic Republic of Gilead of the future.

Top Girls is classified as Theatre of Alienation. Through the unconventional structure of the Brechtian Theatre, Churchill does not want the audience to simply follow the story as if it was realistic; she aims to give the audience food for thought, provoke them to reflect on what is wrong in the society and concentrate on the issues going on. Therefore, in Top Girls there is no release of emotions, no catharsis for the audience. There is no happy ending at all, as it actually ends with the beginning of the story: Act 3 is happening one year before Act 1 and 2. Churchill has also used historicization as another device of the Alienation Theatre. She introduces female historical figures in Act 1, for example, Lady Nijo, a 13th century Japanese courtesan to the Emperor, or Pope Joan, the 9th century female Pope disguised as a man. [2] The author uses historical characters, i.e. women who seemingly have achieved different types of success in different times, to comment on what was actually going on in the end of 20th century and to make the audience see that nothing has changed in women’s situation throughout the years.

By contrast, Atwood sets The Handmaid’s Tale in the future: 21st and 22nd centuries, which makes it a sci-fi novel. Nevertheless, the problems she is talking about are all current issues. The critic Barbara Hill Rigney says that ‘for Atwood, writing itself becomes a political act; the...

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