Literature Study GuidesCloud 9Act 2 Scene 4 Summary

Cloud 9 | Study Guide

Caryl Churchill

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Cloud 9 | Act 2, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

Martin, Edward, and Cathy are in the park one day in late summer. Edward is updating Martin about Cathy's and Tommy's needs, as it is Martin's night to care for them. Betty enters, exhausted from her new job as a receptionist at a doctor's office. She praises Martin for being so patient with Victoria, whom she thinks is intruding on a relationship between Edward and Lin. They hear the bells of the ice cream truck, and Betty, Martin, and Cathy exit, leaving Edward alone. As in other scenes of the play, characters have brief conversations, then exit the stage to be replaced by another pair or group.

  • Gerry looks for Edward in the park and learns Edward is now a homemaker and living (and having sex) with Victoria and Lin. He also has sex with men still. Gerry asks him out on a date. They agree to meet the next evening. After Edward leaves the stage, Harry enters. He and Gerry flirt, then leave together.
  • Maud warns Betty about being "unprotected" like Mrs. Saunders. Ellen enters and asks Betty "what happens with a man," then tells Betty not to forget her. She and Maud leave. Alone onstage, Betty begins a monologue about how surprised she was to realize she actually likes sex. After leaving Clive, she masturbated for the first time since she was a child. She felt guilty about it, as if she was betraying Clive and disappointing her mother, but she also "felt triumphant because [she] was a separate person from them." She no longer feels guilty for pleasuring herself.
  • Betty offers Lin and Victoria money to buy a bigger house so they can all, including Betty, live together. Victoria is hesitant, and Lin points out Betty already knows they all sleep together. Victoria doesn't want to live with her mother—they don't even like each other. "We might begin to," Betty replies.
  • Lin and Martin get in a fight after Cathy shows up with a nosebleed, having had her money and ice cream stolen by a gang of older boys. Lin accuses Martin of not looking after Cathy, and Martin counters he shouldn't have to watch Cathy because she's not his child. Victoria says everything is going to change when she goes to Manchester and they will all have to learn how to get along.
  • Gerry and Betty strike up a conversation after he recognizes her as Edward's mother. They talk about what it's like to live alone. Betty invites Gerry to a theoretical dinner party and tells him he's welcome to drop by anytime. Gerry insists he and Edward are "very involved," and Betty realizes that Gerry, like her son, is gay. She is slightly embarrassed at trying to pick up a gay man, but Gerry promises he will still come to visit.
  • Clive tells Betty she's "not that sort of woman" and his feelings for her have changed. When he leaves, Betty from Act 1 enters. She and Act 2 Betty embrace.

Analysis

The final scene of Cloud 9 is all about acceptance and new beginnings. It includes the last "revolving door" exchange in which characters enter, hold brief dialogues, then exit in order to reveal the characters' true identities and feelings. Victoria has finally moved in with Edward and Lin, and they, with Martin, are trying to figure out how this new arrangement will work. Though this is fine with the siblings and Lin, Martin is having a difficult time accepting his role as an equal. He doesn't want Edward and Lin to tell him what to do—he's married to Victoria, not to them. And he doesn't want to watch Cathy even though Lin is open to caring for both Cathy and Tommy. While everyone else in his life has found peace with the new situation, he is still somewhat stunned by the transformation of his traditional nuclear family into an extended cohort of adults sharing responsibility for one another's children. For all his talk about feminism and openness to sexual exploration, Martin remains attached to the conventional definition of family as a husband, wife, and biological child.

One of the messages of the play is about accepting others for who they are. This isn't always easy: for years Betty has purposefully chosen to ignore Edward's sexuality despite him directly telling her he is gay, and she is hesitant to acknowledge the relationship among Edward, Lin, and Victoria. Though her children's lifestyles don't conform to the gender roles she was raised with, they seem "perfectly happy." The same can't be said for Ellen and Harry, who were pushed into a marriage they didn't want, nor Maud, who taught Betty "young women are never happy." Unlike her own mother, Betty doesn't mind her children's break with traditional lifestyles and values; their happiness is more important than how their lives appear to others. This is a lesson Victoria is still learning, as she has a hard time separating Betty the person from Betty the mother.

This is something Betty struggles with, too. For so many years she viewed herself solely through the lens of her role as Clive's wife. Now she is trying to figure out who she is, and it's not without some trepidation. In her monologue about masturbation Betty tells the audience she cried during her first orgasm because she felt she had disappointed Clive and Maud, both of whom shunned the notion of women enjoying sex. The realization she is a separate person from her mother and ex-husband is frightening at first, because without them Betty doesn't know who she is. The longer she spends time on her own, however, the more she learns what she likes. Orgasms are no longer shameful, but rather pleasurable acts of rebellion and independence. So is Betty's conversation with Gerry. She tries to "pick him up" before she realizes he's gay, something she never would have done prior to her self-awakening for fear she was being too forward or too unladylike. When Clive appears on stage to tell her she's "not that sort of woman," his admonishments fall on deaf ears. Betty no longer feels the need to seek the love and approval of anyone else but herself, which she literally does when her Act 1 counterpart comes onstage. Their hug represents Betty's acceptance of her past self as well as who she is in the present.

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