Cloud 9


Act I, Scene 3

Summary Act I, Scene 3

In her discussion with Maud, Mrs. Saunders again designates herself as an outsider, more progressive than the others. Unlike Maud, Mrs. Saunders questions the beating of the natives, stating that she forbids the beating of servants in her own home. She asserts that women do have a responsibility to evaluate the decisions of men. Having been forced to manage her own home, Mrs. Saunders has been endowed with duties historically assigned to men. This notion of an independent woman is foreign to the Victorian world of the first act, prompting Mrs. Saunders to announce that she will soon leave Clive's estate.

As unrest among the natives grows, so too does the tension between Clive and Betty, until Clive at last decides to confront Betty about her relationship with Harry. Clive equates Betty's infidelity with the insurrections of the natives, first stating his concern that the "whole continent" will "swallow me up" and later telling Betty, "We must resist this dark female lust…or it will swallow us up." Here, Churchill employs a technique she uses throughout the play: using similar descriptions in different contexts to connect separate events. The idea that Clive might be "swallowed" by either the savage will of the natives or Betty's "dark female lust" implies the enormity of Clive's task to suppress and oppress in the name of Britain. Clive's language suggests his denial of any free will on the part of Betty or the natives. He does not blame either one. Instead, he attributes the actions of both to darkness and evil. In doing so, he robs the natives and Betty of any individuality they might wish to assert. Betty, at this point too afraid to leave Clive, accepts his argument.