Cloud 9

Summary

Act I, Scenes 4–5

Summary Act I, Scenes 4–5

On the verandah, Joshua sets up for the wedding of Harry and Ellen. Edward enters with Victoria's doll. Joshua snatches the doll from Edward and, taking a knife, cuts the doll open and allows the sawdust to flow out of it. Joshua tosses the doll under the table for the wedding cake.

Maud, Clive, and Betty enter, and, with Edward they make a triumphal arch for Harry and Ellen. Ellen asks for Betty's advice in dealing with sex and men. Betty instructs her to "just keep still," that she's not getting married for her enjoyment. Ellen exits. Betty then tells Clive that her necklace has been stolen. Edward blames Joshua, but Harry points the blame back at Edward. Edward runs off as Mrs. Saunders enters to announce her departure. Clive, losing control, kisses Mrs. Saunders.

Upon witnessing Clive kissing Mrs. Saunders, Betty attacks Mrs. Saunders. Harry and Clive separate them, and Clive banishes Mrs. Saunders from the house. Betty and Clive begin to reconcile as Edward enters with the necklace. Edward explains that he was taking care of it for his mother.

Clive calls on Harry to make a speech, and Harry does so reluctantly, weakly toasting to his "good fortune." When Harry and Ellen go to cut the cake, Clive notices the doll under the table. Furious, he hits Edward. Gathering himself, he makes a speech wishing Harry and Ellen well. During the speech, Joshua produces a gun with which he plans to shoot Clive. Edward covers his ears as the act ends.

Analysis

As much as Clive disapproves of Betty's "dark lust," he is far more offended by Harry's homosexuality: Clive calls Harry's desires "a disease more dangerous than diphtheria." Harry's sexual frenzy reaches its peak when he decides to make a pass at Clive. Again, Clive dismisses what he deems perverse sexuality as a result of nature gone awry, not personal choice, and he spends the rest of the act trying to prescribe a "cure" for Harry's perversion. Clive believes that Harry might be rid of his condition by getting married. Moreover, in his assault on Harry's behavior, Clive again connects sexuality with empire, labeling homosexuality "a betrayal of the Queen" an instructing Harry to "think of England" when he proposes to Mrs. Saunders. Essentially, Clive demands that Harry subvert his true sexuality to demonstrate patriotism. Clive's view of empire is unforgiving, however, and it cannot survive. At the very end of the act, Clive is literally shot down and the culture and tradition he represents fall with him.

Churchill waits until the end of the act to fully unleash the real truths that have been lingering under the surface of the farce from the beginning. Only in the last moment of the last scene does the audience discover exactly where Edward stands with his father. Edward's final moment, his covering his ears before Joshua shoots his father, indicates his rejection of his father and what he represents.