Cloud 9

Summary

Act I, Scene 2

Summary Act I, Scene 2

Clive ushers the entire group onto stage, interrupting an embrace between Ellen and Betty. Clive has Harry perform a "conjuring trick," which involves Harry's pulling a Union Jack (the British flag) from his sleeve. Joshua ends the scene, singing "In the Deep Midwinter," a song Ellen has taught him.

Analysis

Churchill begins to unveil the hypocrisies of colonial and sexual oppression. In this second scene, the farcical superficiality of the first scene begins to break apart, as more and more deviant sexual tastes are revealed. Characters become increasingly explicit about their fantasies. Clive goes as far as to perform oral sex on Mrs. Saunders to open the scene. Clive demands the loyalty of his family and servants, but his actions suggest that he should not be held to this same standard. Ironically, Clive's infidelity involves the one woman in the first act who does not fit the mold of the subservient wife. Through his interaction with Mrs. Saunders, Clive indicates that his role in the oppression of both women and natives might be derived solely from his understanding of British ideals. Just before he disappears under her skirt, Clive tells Mrs. Saunders, "You terrify me. You are dark like this continent." With this metaphor, Churchill implies that both sexual and colonial oppression is a result of the fears of the oppressor.

Mrs. Saunders stands out in the first act not only because of her independence (as a widow who manages her own estate) but also because of her recognition of her own sexual right. She does not give in to Clive's sexual advances because she feels a responsibility as a woman. Instead, she welcomes him under her skirt for her own sexual satisfaction. When Clive researches orgasm before her and stops his business, she reacts angrily: "What about me? Wait." Mrs. Saunders does not reject her own pleasure, as the other women of the act do.

In creating the web of sexual interaction, Churchill introduces the notion of games. In a literal sense, the characters actually begin to play games. First they toss a ball around during the Christmas picnic, and later they move on to hide and seek, a game that covers a large portion of this second scene. The hide and seek game reinforces Churchill's structural and kinetic design of the first act. The continuous entrances and exits of the cast members as the search for one another creates an image of a family out of control, grasping for and chasing one another, but unable to hold on to each other for very long. The parallel between the actual game of hide and seek and the personal "games" that the characters play with one another becomes clear when Betty, alone with Harry for a moment during the game, asks, "Can't we ever be alone?" When Harry rejects this offer, Betty decides to hide again, implying her retreat from accepting her true feelings back to her guise of loyal mother and wife. When Betty later finds a moment alone with Ellen, she remarks, "Ellen, I don't want to play any more," suggesting her fatigue with the whole process of subverting her desires to live up to Clive's expectations. The games in Scene two also serve the practical purpose of allowing Churchill to move the plot along quickly, saying a lot in a relatively short time. The rapid cadence of entrances and exits appears natural and unforced in the context of the hide and seek game.