Literature Study GuidesCloud 9Act 2 Scene 1 Summary

Cloud 9 | Study Guide

Caryl Churchill

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Cloud 9 | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary



The setting has changed to winter in 1979 London, but only 25 years have elapsed for the characters. The scene begins with a monologue from Gerry, Edward's lover, describing an anonymous sexual encounter with a man on the train. Gerry exits, and the stage lights come up to reveal adult Victoria, a divorced mother named Lin, and Lin's four-year-old daughter, Cathy, who is played by a man. They are inside a children's play area in the middle of a park. It is winter. Lin and Cathy bicker while Victoria simultaneously keeps an eye on her unseen son, Tommy, and tries to read a book. Cathy runs outside the play area, and Lin gripes about raising a child on her own. Sensing Victoria isn't paying attention, Lin adds, "I really fancy you." That gets Victoria's attention, and Lin asks her to go to a movie. Victoria agrees.

Lin looks outside and coaches Cathy on how to play with a toy gun, which starts a conversation between Lin and Victoria about children, guns, and the army. Lin says her brother, who is serving in the army, is stationed in Belfast. They talk about their fathers, then Lin asks how Victoria gets along with her husband. Victoria says they get along well because "he helps with the washing up and everything." Lin says she's grateful her ex-husband let her keep Cathy and that he didn't hit her (Lin) "harder than he did." Victoria reflects on her own good fortune to be married to Martin just before Lin pronounces she hates men.

Edward enters the play area and tells Victoria that Betty is walking around the park. When Victoria goes to find her mother, Lin asks Edward if he's gay. She just wants to talk to a gay person who understands what it's like to be attracted to a straight person, but Edward isn't listening—he's too busy panicking they will be overheard. He fears rumors about his sexuality will cost him his job as a gardener in the park.

Victoria and Betty enter. Betty prattles on about Tommy's bravery, Victoria's appearance, and Edward's job before Victoria has a chance to introduce her to Lin and Cathy. Betty admires Cathy's painting and tells Lin she had help with her children when the family lived in Africa, where "there wasn't the servant problem." Then she returns to talking about Edward's work as a gardener, "what a pretty child Cathy is," and how Victoria doesn't make enough effort with her looks before casually mentioning she is leaving her husband. Victoria and Edward try to get Betty to repeat what she just said, but she ignores them as she and Cathy bond over her jewelry, including the necklace young Edward stole in Act 1. Betty confirms she's leaving Clive and "finding a little flat that will be fun." She exits.

Edward and Victoria are both exasperated by Betty's news. "They're going to want so much attention," Edward says of their parents. Lin hustles Cathy to get ready to leave, and Edward asks Cathy if he can have her painting for his friend Gerry. Once they are alone in the play area, Lin asks Victoria if she will have sex with her. Victoria is hesitant, and Lin promises she will enjoy it.


Act 2 of Cloud 9 takes place in 1979 London, but only 25 years have passed since the events of Act 1. That makes Edward 34 and Victoria 27. They are both struggling with their place in the larger context of society. Edward identifies as gay and is in a relationship with Gerry, but he isn't eager to have his lifestyle become public knowledge. Though the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 lifted the ban of homosexual activity between consenting adults in private places, it didn't remove the stigma that had followed gay men for more than 100 years. Nor did it assert the equality of gay individuals. Edward's fear he will lose his job for being gay was a very real concern for millions of people. Hiding his personal life is necessary to maintain his employment.

Victoria is also divided between two different roles: mother and aspiring academic. Though the feminist movement was well underway by 1979, the primary focus for many women was still on the family. Victoria, who is more interested in reading books about human psychology than watching her child on the swing set, is an anomaly. She isn't content to list "motherhood" as her peak achievement. There is a sense, however, that she doesn't quite know what she wants. When Lin asks her out on a date, Victoria's first response is she doesn't know how her husband would react. At this point in the play, she is somewhat like her mother in that she takes cues about what is appropriate from her husband, whom she feels lucky to have because "he helps with the washing up and everything."

Lin and Cathy are new additions to the core cast of characters from Act 1. A lesbian divorcée raising her daughter on her own, Lin is the opposite of Betty as far as motherhood is concerned. While young Edward was punished for playing with dolls and being "unmanly," four-year-old Cathy is encouraged to play with guns, get messy, and wear jewelry. Cathy's casting as a man, the only cross-gender casting choice in Act 2, underscores Lin's expectations for her daughter. Not only does Lin actively try to expose Cathy to experiences outside the realm of what is considered "normal" and "proper" for little girls, but she pushes back when Cathy "shows off" how pretty she looks in Betty's jewelry. She does not want her daughter to be defined by her looks or outdated cultural expectations.

If Lin represents the new generation of motherhood, Betty represents the old. The more she talks, the clearer it is she has taken on many of her own mother's viewpoints. She chastises Victoria for her appearance, refuses to acknowledge gardening as Edward's "real" job, and makes a few racist remarks about "servants" and children with pierced ears. Like Maud, she views her children through the lenses of traditional masculinity and femininity and dismisses those with different values (such as piercing little girls' ears) as "not British." Yet Betty has diverged sharply from her mother's path in one way: she left Clive. Though she acts nonchalant about it in front of her children, separating from her husband is an enormous move for Betty. She is going against everything Maud taught her about the man's role to protect and the woman's role to serve. Independence is new territory for Betty and, based on Clive's portrayal in Act 1, she will probably have a much better life. But her children only see her separation as being problematic for them. They do not appreciate the courage it must have taken for her to not only leave her husband but also divorce herself from the role of dutiful wife.

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