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Cloud 9

Caryl Churchill

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics

full title · Cloud 9

author/playwright · Caryl Churchill

type of work · Play

genre · Farce; Satire; Surreal Play; Brechtian Drama

language · English

time and place written · 1979, London

date of first publication · 1979, Pluto Press Limited and Joint Stock Theatre Group

publisher · Routledge

narrator · not applicable (drama)

point of view · not applicable (drama)

tone · In the farcical first act of Cloud 9, Churchill uses a sarcastic tone to poke fun at British colonialist attitudes. Her sarcasm is biting, and the dark humor of the act is meant to cut deep. Churchill creates sympathy for the women in this act, but she forgives no one. Even the women are left open to criticism. In the more realistic second act, Churchill becomes more sympathetic, allowing her audience to see the struggle of each character. She acknowledges that the quest for identity is a difficult one, coming only at the cost of much personal anguish.

tense · not applicable (drama)

setting (time) · Act I: Victorian times; Act II: 1979 (twenty-five years later for the characters)

setting (place) · Act I: A British colony in Africa; Act II: London

protagonist · Betty and/or Clive

major conflict · The struggle of Betty and her children, and even all of Britain, to break free from the past and establish identities apart from those previously assigned to them by tradition.

rising action · In Act I, unrest among the natives rises, as does Clive's family's concern for their safety. Sexual tensions grow between and Harry and Edward, Harry and Betty. Clive loses control of his family . In Act II, Victoria begins to experiment with homosexuality. Betty finds a job and starts life anew as a single woman. Lin and Edward aggressively pursue relationships with Victoria and Gerry respectively.

climax · In Act I, Clive learns of Harry's homosexuality and forces Harry to marry. In Act II, The Dead Hand Gang assaults Cathy.

falling action · In Act I, Joshua raises his gun to shoot Clive as the act draws to a close. In Act II, Martin and Lin argue over who was responsible for Cathy, and Lin leaves.

themes · The Confusion of Gender; The Quest for Identity; The Haunting of the Present by the Past; The Oppressiveness of Violence

motifs · Singing; Embracing; Seasons

symbols · Betty's Necklace; Guns; Dolls

foreshadowing · Edward plays with Victoria's doll, foreshadowing his inclination toward femininity and homosexuality. Betty falls for Harry Bagley, foreshadowing her eventual break with Clive. Additionally, Joshua's complete subservience could be interpreted to foreshadow the murder attempt on Clive. Joshua is so well behaved, one wonders how much he really means it.

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