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Cloud 9

Caryl Churchill

Act II, Scene 3–4

Act II, Scene 2

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Scene 3

On a summer night, Victoria, Lin and Edward come to the park drunk. They begin a sort of séance, gleaned from a book of Victoria's, calling on a sex goddess to join them in ceremony. Lin claims to see the goddess and yells "Look out!" in an attempt to frighten Victoria and Edward. Victoria starts calling to the goddess again, disappointed that the séance fell apart. She refers again to her book, telling Lin and Edward about a community ruled by a priestess, a community in which men had no status.

Victoria, Lin and Edward hear someone approaching. Lin and Edward dare Victoria to proposition the stranger for sex. She does so, but the stranger turns out to be Martin, who has been out looking for Victoria. Martin notices that the others are drunk as they jump on him, pulling him down into the beginnings of an orgy. At this point, another stranger arrives. Lin recognizes the person as her brother, referred to as Soldier. The soldier tells Lin that he has "come for a fuck" and then disappears. Lin collapses, and Victoria comes over to attend to her. Lin invites Victoria to come home with her. Edward, Lin and Victoria depart together, and Martin leaves alone.

Gerry comes on to address the audience, saying that he prefers living alone. Then, Edward (from Act I) enters and tells Gerry that he loves him. Gerry tells Edward that he loves him also. At this time, some, or perhaps all, of the cast enters and sings the song "Cloud Nine." The song's verses become more perverse as the song progresses.

Scene 4

Back in the park in late summer, Cathy comes on with another poem about "true love." Edward and Martin follow. Martin will be babysitting Cathy and Tommy, so Edward is preparing him. Betty comes in rambling about her new job as a doctor's assistant. She lets Cathy count her money, and then turns to Martin to assure him that Victoria will come back to him when she "sorts herself out." Cathy scurries off when she hears ice cream bells, dragging Martin and Betty with her.

When Cathy, Martin and Betty leave, Gerry arrives, finding Edward. Gerry learns that Edward has been living with Victoria and Lin. Edward mentions that the three of them sleep together. Cathy runs in to give Edward some ice cream and then leaves. Gerry asks Edward to have a meal with him sometime. Edward agrees and then leaves. Harry (from Act I) arrives, and he and Gerry leave together.

Betty returns to the park followed by Maud (from Act I), who warns Betty of the dangers of independence. Then, Ellen (from Act I) comes in to ask Betty again what she should expect from sex with a man. She tells Betty not to forget her. Maud and Ellen leave. Betty addresses the audience, speaking about her first experience with masturbation as a child. She then relates her rediscovery of masturbation this year and how it gave her the power to defy her mother and Clive.

When Betty finishes her speech, Victoria and Lin enter. Betty tells them that she knows that they have been sleeping together and offers to give them money for a house where all of them could live. Victoria reacts uneasily, saying that she and Betty don't like one another. Betty suggests that they could grow to like each other. Suddenly, Cathy rushes in with a nosebleed. Through tears, she tells them that the Dead Hand Gang took her ice cream and her money. Martin comes in, and Lin berates him for not looking after Cathy well enough. Martin rebukes her, saying that Cathy is not his daughter. Lin goes to deal justice to the Dead Hand Gang. Martin, feeling guilty, takes Cathy for ice cream. Victoria also walks off, leaving Betty alone.

Gerry enters and greets Betty. They discuss loneliness, and Betty invites Gerry over for dinner. Gerry encourages Betty not to worry so much. Over the course of their conversation, Betty discovers that Edward is gay. She frets very little over this, remarking that Edward appears to be happy. Gerry leaves. Clive (from Act I) comes on stage, his day long past, and expresses his regret over what Britain has become. Clive leaves as Betty (from Act I) arrives. The two Bettys embrace.

Analysis

Churchill opens Act II, Scene three with a séance scene in which she classifies female sexuality as sacred. For Lin, Edward, and Victoria sex has become a kind of new religion for a new society. Whereas Clive insisted that his family honor God and Queen, the characters of the second act pay homage to the "Goddess of cunts." Lin, Edward, and Victoria have to reject the old notion of reverence for England because of the ties established in the first act between colonial and sexual oppression. Their new religion allows for the possibility that female and homosexual liberties have a basis in religion and tradition. There is no longer one sexual or political heritage that everyone must adhere to.

In these final scenes, Churchill makes the connection between the first and second acts more literal by reintroducing characters from Act I. Their appearances are brief, almost ghostlike, demonstrating that the past does still haunt the present. This idea of the past's effect on the present is echoed when the Dead Hand Gang assaults Cathy. The "dead hand" of the past has returned for a final attack on the values of the present. More importantly, however, the reappearance of the past shows the audience just how far the protagonists, especially Betty, have come. Betty gets the opportunity to tell her mother that she has a job. Given this new context, Maud's repetition of her warning that a woman should not follow Mrs. Saunders example sounds absurd. Betty has become much like Mrs. Saunders and appears to be better for it. When Ellen returns, Betty is able to revise the advice she had given to Ellen about sex. In Act I, Betty instructs Ellen to "just keep still" during sex, suggesting that sex was not to be enjoyed by the woman. She repeats this statement to Ellen's apparition, but, perhaps hearing how out of place it sounds in this new world, starts into a monologue about masturbation and how fun it is.

With her monologue about the newly discovered joy of masturbation, Betty announces that she has finally distanced herself from Clive and his oppression. Again, Churchill uses sex as a metaphor for life. Betty says, "I felt triumphant because I was a separate person from them (her mother and Clive)," conveying the notion that sexuality is an essential part of identity. Just as masturbation is the physical act of pleasing one's self, mastering one's destiny is the method for deriving pleasure from life. Betty worries less when she is active. Clive did not allow Betty take action towards anything, thus confining her to a life of worry. One should note that, although Betty has been liberated from Clive, she does not deny the experience of her past. The final embrace, between Betty of Act I and Betty of Act II suggests a reconciliation of, and a healing between, the old and the new, not a departure from one to the next.

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