Vinegar Tom: More Than Just a History Play Essay

2650 Words May 9th, 2013 11 Pages
Vinegar Tom: More Than Just a History Play
Oppression takes many forms in society; Capitalism over the working class, patriarchal communities over the women in them and in some cases even women over women. Caryl Churchill has explored such issues in her works mainly pertaining to the position of women in male-dominated societies. In fact, her works utilize various plot structures to harness support for the improvement of the position of women in society while some attempt to illustrate women’s struggle against oppressive patriarchal agents.
One of the plays in which Churchill focuses on women’s oppression is Vinegar Tom. The main character is Alice, a single mother in her twenties who lives in a small village. Alice and her mother Joan
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Susan, another female character in the play, the poor mother of three children, who has had several miscarriages. She constantly gets pregnant and is also accused of being a witch because of the abortion she has had. According to social and religious codes, Susan has been condemned, as having gone against nature by challenging the society understands of motherhood. The community tries to make her feel guilty about what she has done as reflected in the claims made by Packer (a male character): “you went to this good witch, and you destroyed the child in your womb by witchcraft (Churchill 48).” By bringing up the issue of abortion, Churchill is, in fact, trying to champion women’s rights to abort a fetus because they have a right to save their own body from harm. Indeed, this provides Churchill the opportunity to criticize the anti-abortionist patriarchal authorities that ignore the rights of abortion.
However, sadly enough, it is the oppressing force that seems successful to coerce Susan into confessing “I was a witch and never knew it... I didn’t know that I was so wicked” (Churchill 58). Susan succumbs to the male-imposed ideas of wickedness. She believes that she was a bad mother and therefore, accepts the church’s accusation that she is a witch. Susan is also the cause of Alice’s death as she accuses her of being a witch to the witch finders. She tells Packer, “she [Alice] took me to the cunning

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