On the surface, Joshua's decision to shoot Clive might indicate that Joshua is furious over the death of his parents at the hands of British soldiers. However, Joshua's aggression might be the result of Clive's sharp dismissal, a response to Joshua telling him of a possible sexual interaction between Betty and Ellen. This is the last time that Clive speaks to Joshua before the shooting, and it represents certain hypocrisy in Clive. Clive demands loyalty and honesty from Joshua, but only up to a point that allows Clive to maintain his illusions about his family. When Joshua suggests that Betty might be involved in a homosexual relationship, Clive betrays his own edict, essentially telling Joshua that he has been too honest. This hypocrisy costs Clive dearly.

At the end of Act I, Churchill leaves her characters at different places in their sexual and cultural liberation. Edward seems to finally reject the old ways, but Betty actually reunites with Clive just before he is shot. Victoria ends up just as she started, a doll. Clearly, the family is falling apart and tradition is losing its grip. With the end of the act, Churchill sets the foundation for a second act in which her characters will have to come to terms with the lingering influence of Clive's Africa.