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Literature Study GuidesCloud 9Act 1 Scene 5 Summary

Cloud 9 | Study Guide

Caryl Churchill

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Cloud 9 | Act 1, Scene 5 | Summary



Joshua is setting the table on the veranda for the wedding when he spots Edward holding Victoria's doll. Joshua takes it from him, slits the doll's body open with a knife, and throws the doll under the table. The rest of the cast enters, and Ellen takes Betty aside to ask "what happens" with a man. Betty advises her to "keep still" and to remember "you're not getting married to enjoy yourself." Ellen exits.

Betty tells Clive her necklace has been stolen. Edward blames Joshua, and Harry steps in to say Edward is lying. Edward runs off and Mrs. Saunders enters. She sold her property and intends to go to England to buy a farm; she will leave tomorrow. Clive again praises her "amazing spirit" and kisses her, prompting Betty to tackle Mrs. Saunders to the ground. Clive and Harry separate the women, and Clive tells Mrs. Saunders to leave at once for "abusing" his hospitality and touching his wife. Mrs. Saunders insists she will not leave until the next day and exits the stage. Clive, moved by Betty's jealousy, forgives her for kissing Harry.

Edward enters, holding the necklace. He says he was "minding" it for Betty "because of the troubles," which earns him praise from Clive. Edward puts the necklace on Betty. Ellen enters, and Maud chides her for crying at her own wedding. Harry makes a brief speech about the empire, family, and "domestic bliss" without actually saying anything at all, then steps on the doll, which is still under the table, as he and Ellen cut the cake. Edward blames Joshua for the doll's distressed state, and Clive smacks Edward on the side of the head for telling lies. Clive gives a toast to the bride and groom and assures the group, "Dangers are past. Our enemies killed." As he talks, Joshua, who has been drinking steadily throughout the scene, aims a gun at Clive. Edward, the only person who notices, does nothing to warn everyone else. He covers his ears as the stage goes black.


Betty's beaded necklace serves as a symbol throughout Cloud 9, and it means different things at different times. In Act 1 it is a representation of feminine attraction. Edward steals the necklace so he can give it to Harry as a means of showing his love and devotion. Betty wants to wear the necklace so she can look her "best" at Harry's wedding. She hasn't yet caught on that Harry is gay, and she wants him to find her attractive even though he's marrying another woman.

Betty doesn't envy Ellen, but she does envy Mrs. Saunders. She finally sees proof of a relationship between Clive and the widow during Act 1, Scene 5 and though Clive has effectively stopped showing her any affection, Betty still feels jealous. Though Clive is the one who kissed Mrs. Saunders and Betty is the one who throws the first punch, it is Mrs. Saunders who is blamed. This satirizes the hierarchy of trust inherent in Victorian culture: single women were suspect, married women were trusted with reservations, and men were trusted above all else. Clive is disgusted with Mrs. Saunders for assaulting Betty (which she didn't do) and pleased by Betty's jealousy. Her violent act of devotion, coupled with the revelation about Harry's homosexuality, puts Betty in Clive's favor once more.

The end of Act 1, Scene 5 raises more questions than it answers. Did Joshua have malicious intent throughout his service to Clive's family, or did that only arise after Clive reprimanded him at the end of Act 1, Scene 4? Does Clive's praise of Edward for "minding" Betty's necklace rankle the already angry Joshua? No matter Joshua's motive, it is clear he wants to kill Clive. What's not clear is whether or not Clive dies—but that isn't as important as Joshua's act of rebellion against his white master. He represents minorities rising against the white patriarchy, foreshadowing the African independence movements of the 20th century, some of which were militant.

Edward's tacit approval of Joshua's actions is also an act of rebellion. Though he understands what Joshua intends to do, he does nothing to stop Joshua or protect Clive. Like Joshua's motives, Edward's aren't clear, but the desired result—freedom from patriarchal rule—is the same.

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