Compare and contrast the way the historical diners in “Top Girls” and the female characters in “Spies” are shown to be oppressed
Compare and contrast the way the historical diners in ‘Top Girls’ and the female characters in ‘Spies’ are shown to be oppressed. How far do you agree with the opinion that despite their efforts they all remain oppressed? In this essay I will be comparing and contrasting how I think the way that the Historical Diners and the Female characters in Spies are oppressed and that despite their efforts they all remain oppressed.
In my opinion I think that most of the Historical Diners in Top Girls and the female characters in Spies are continually oppressed despite their efforts for freedom and equality, this could be being oppressed by men or society’s Diners in Top Girls and the female characters in Spies are shown to be oppressed and how opinion of what they should do or be. However some of the women manage to break free of oppression but only after enduring it for years.
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My first example of the Historical Diners in Act 1 Scene 1 is Pope Joan; she is seen as a ‘Top Girl’ because she became arguably one of the most powerful people in the world when she was in control of the papacy in the early middle ages but behind the tale shows a story of oppression: for instance Joan was not able as a female to enter a library to study and was forced to dress as a man in order to extend her knowledge; she was only respected enough to become Pope because she was believed to be a man not because of her intelligence.
My final point is that when Pope Joan fell pregnant she was forced to hide the fact she was expecting and when she did give birth she and the child were killed by the procession, with one cardinal going so far as to call the baby the ‘Antichrist’. This out of all the historical diner’s stories I will describe is the most poignant story of oppression of all because it ends with the death of Pope Joan just because of the fact she would not abide by society’s expectation of her to become an uneducated housewife and decided to further herself intellectually as a woman.
The next diner is shall go in depth describing is Griselda, she is also seen as a ‘Top Girl’ because like Joan she is a woman who rose to a position of power, as she went from being a peasant to being the ruling marquis wife. However she is shown as being oppressed by her husband, for example she is told she must obey her husband no matter what leaving her with practically no control over her own life, she agrees to this because she sees this as a normal thing to have to do this is shown when she says ‘A wife must obey her husband’.
Despite this the biggest way she is helpless is when her children are taken away because the marquis does not believe that she could possibly love him and obey him, so he had to prove it. The cruel way the marquis separates Griselda and her new born baby shows just how subservient she is to the marquis. Even after her second baby had been taken away she remains loyal to her husband proving that she would do anything for him.
Nevertheless the marquis still feels he has to prove that she will obey him no matter what another time, he leaves her and sends her back to her father under the pretence that he will be marrying a younger wife. It is here that the story changes and it is revealed that the girl the marquis is preparing to marry is none other than her daughter; they are then reunited as the marquis finally believes that his wife loves him enough to do whatever he commands.
I believe that even though Griselda was willing to obey her husband, his treatment of her, forcing her to give away her children and obey him amounts to nothing more than slavery and shows that just because she was his wife he thought he could order her do anything just because he didn’t feel she loved him. Her story could be compared to Mrs Hayward’s towards the end of Spies; this is because towards the end of Spies when Mr Hayward finds out what his wife has been doing he begins to force her to accompany him everywhere just so he can regain control over her.
It is also implied that Mr Hayward may have been physically beating his wife to gain control over her, this is idea of Mr Hayward as a wife beater is presented early on in the book , but this presentation only truly becomes apparent towards the end of the book, when Stephen is confronted by Keith with the bayonet over his loyalty – ‘I suddenly realise where he (Keith) learnt to practise this particular form of torture… nd why his mother… has taken to wearing that cravat pinned high around her neck’. This shows that Mrs Hayward is being more than mentally oppressed like Griselda, by being forced to the follow orders of her husband to prove she is loyal to him; she is being physically oppressed because as his wife she should have obeyed him and when she did not Mr Hayward resorts to violence to reassert his authority.
Mrs Hayward is implied to have continued to be oppressed by Mr Hayward at the end of Spies because there is no hint of divorce or separation at the end of the novel, this could mean that Mrs Hayward continued to be a victim of domestic abuse, never breaking free of Mr Hayward’s oppression. The final Historical Diner I shall describe is Marlene; she is the main character of Top Girls and is the person who brings all the Historical Diners together in Act 1 Scene 1.
This is because she has recently gained a promotion at the employment agency she works at and has gathered the Historical Diners to celebrate. During the early scenes in the book she is seen to be the ultimate Top Girl this is because she has everything she wants and is oppressed by no one, this is shown when she talks about her promotion, the sexual freedom she feels by not having a husband or being controlled by a man and the freedom she feels through her position of power, for example her travelling.
This is later on revealed to be a facade as she is not liked by the people she works for as she is described as having more masculine traits, this is shown during the dinner when she orders steak, a particularly masculine food. At the end of the novel it is also revealed that Marlene’s freedom is not as it seems as in return for the career, travelling, and freedom to chose a man she had to sacrifice her own child in order to obtain her present status. This shows that despite outward appearances Marlene is still oppressed as she is forced apart from her daughter to obtain what she wants from life.
In conclusion I believe that despite their efforts the Historical Diners and the female characters in Spies are continually oppressed in some form, be it a man or society’s opinion of what they should be. However it can be argued that through all the oppression and sacrifice some but not all of the females are able to better themselves further than they would have without the oppression, for instance Griselda would not have been able to stay the marquis wife and live in luxury compared to her peasant upbringing if she had not endured her husbands oppression.