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Literature Study GuidesCloud 9Act 2 Scene 2 Summary

Cloud 9 | Study Guide

Caryl Churchill

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Cloud 9 | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary



It is spring. The play's characters come in and out of the park and have brief conversations as Martin delivers a monologue to Victoria about an out-of-town job offer. Martin says it's perfectly fine if Victoria takes the job, but it's also fine if she decides to stay in London. Victoria is crying at this point, which irritates Martin because he's "not the sort of man who makes women cry." He questions if Victoria is "well enough" to do this new job and reminds her "there's no point being so liberated you make yourself cry all the time." Then Martin brings up their lackluster sex life. It's not his fault he couldn't maintain an erection last night—she was giving him too many directions and he does not like to feel she can please herself better than he can. Though he's confident Victoria does not reach orgasm because she feels dominated by him, he wants her to know his "one aim is to give [her] rolling orgasms like [he does] other women." He assures Victoria he isn't putting any pressure on her, but he doesn't think she's "being a whole person."

Martin's speech is interrupted every few minutes by the other characters. During these short conversations, the audience learns Gerry and Edward are lovers but Gerry doesn't want to be tied to one man, Betty is frightened all the time since she left Clive, Cathy wants Lin to dress in a more feminine way in front of Cathy's friends, and Betty doesn't enjoy the company of women because they are so much less interesting than men.

Martin walks Betty home after he finishes lecturing Victoria. He has work to do on his novel about the lives of women written from the women's points of view. Victoria explodes as soon as he and her mother leave. "Why the hell can't he just be a wife and come with me?" she asks Lin. Lin asks Victoria to live with her instead, and her feelings are hurt when Victoria tells her not to be "silly." They squabble until Lin mentions her brother was killed in Belfast and her father doesn't want her to come to the funeral. Cathy approaches, and she and Lin get into a fight about bedtime, which results in Lin smacking Cathy and Cathy running away. Victoria realizes she does not know where Tommy is, and Cathy is called back to help them look. Cathy finds him in the bushes. Victoria goes to him, and Cathy and Lin leave the park.

Gerry and Edward return to the stage. Gerry tells Edward he is becoming too much "like a wife," which Edward says he does not mind at all. He enjoys the "feminine" role in a relationship. This is too much for Gerry, who says he is moving out. He leaves. Victoria joins Edward on a park bench. As they hold hands he confides he wishes he were a woman, then asks to touch her breasts. Victoria finds his touch arousing, and Edward is pretty sure he is a lesbian.


At first glance, Martin appears to have a more enlightened viewpoint about marital relationships and women's roles in society than those expressed in Act 1, but the more he talks, the more it becomes apparent he and Clive are cut from the same cloth. Like Clive, Martin wants the best for his wife but only on his own terms. It's fine if Victoria moves to Manchester, but if she does Martin will punish her by moving in with another woman. He understands women need to take control of their sexual pleasure, but he becomes indignant when she tells him what to do. He sees her inability to "get [herself] together" as a black mark on his reputation, not hers. Martin makes Victoria's successes and failures all about him, insisting he is the one who makes her "stand on [her] own two feet." He, like Clive, is the type of man who thinks he knows more about the desires of women than women themselves, as evidenced by Churchill's cheeky choice of having Martin write a novel about women from the women's point of view. While men like Martin pretend to understand the meaning of feminism and the purpose of the women's liberation movement, they don't actually view women as equals. They are just as much to blame for the oppression of women's rights as misogynistic throwbacks like Clive.

Clive is on stage only for a few moments in Act 2, but his outright contempt for women lives on through Betty, who has "never been so short of men's company that [she's] had to bother with women." Her upbringing and marriage were filled with lessons about the inferiority of women, which Betty clings to even though she's a woman herself. This proves problematic when Betty strikes out on her own. It isn't that she has no one to rely upon but rather that she has no one to give her attention. Her role in life has always been to serve everyone but herself. In Betty's generation the worst thing one could do is act "selfish" and do things for oneself; for Lin's generation, it is the most direct route to happiness.

Even characters who seem happy with themselves are forced to come to grips with how they are viewed by society. Edward is comfortable as a gay man who takes pleasure in the traditionally feminine roles in a relationship—cooking, cleaning, and looking after a partner's well-being—but his lover isn't. Gerry's insistence that he doesn't want a wife is directly related to his fear of commitment and loss of independence, but Edward interprets their breakup a sign that the word gay isn't an accurate reflection of who he is. When he says he's a lesbian, he's referring to his desire to be treated like a woman in a relationship as well as his attraction to the female form. Lesbian doesn't encompass his attraction to men, but it's the closest he can get to describing his connection to everything feminine.

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