The play by Churchill is set in two different periods according to each act. Act 1 gets set in the European colonial era in Africa, which dates to the 1870's, when many European nations, such as England, were claiming territories in Africa. The act is also during the Victorian period, as shown in the song on the first scene, "O'er countless number she, our Queen Victoria reigns supreme." The second act, Act 2 takes place more than one hundred years after the first, in London. Over this time, several changes have occurred including the deflation of European colonialism in Africa as well as a sexual revolution in England's capital, London.
The first act is set in Africa, at Clive's home. Clive is a colonial master, living with his wife and children, including a dummy daughter. Clive being the colonial master receives several visitors who often discuss matters relating to the natives such as Mrs. Saunders who comes to seek protection and Harry, an explorer who frequently visits the family. Clive also keeps a native boy, Joshua, as his servant. Churchill introduces mixed sexual relations among the different characters. Joshua, the African servant, has a homosexual relationship with Harry while Harry also flirts with Betty, Clive's wife. Clive, on the other hand, has oral sex with Mrs. Sanders, who is a widow that had come to seek protection from the natives. Edward, Clive's son also had a history of a sexual relationship Harry that had ended, but now there was the hope of it rekindling. The second scene is set in London, a century later. Churchill switches up the characters but tries to portray the sexual revolution in London. A different actor plays characters such as that of Betty than that who played it in Act 1. Churchill depicts the sexual revolution by the divorce between Betty and Clive while Lin and Victoria demonstrate lesbianism.
Clive, is a patriarch and a racist. He has a firm belief that men a better than women while at the same e time believing that white people are superior to black people.
Betty is a submissive and devoted wife to Clive. She admits this at the start of the play that she lives for Clive. When she gets confronted about her feelings for Harry, she caves in and apologizes, "There is something wicked in me Clive."
Edward could get described as the effeminate son. He portrays unmanly characteristics within himself that Clive is not pleased with. In Act 2 however, Edward accepts his gay nature and even has a partner, Gerry.
Joshua embraces the white people he lives with; he openly states, "My skin is black, but my soul is white." Joshua also appears to have split loyalties from his rude nature to Betty.
The various circumstances control the behavior of most characters in the play they are in. Being in the 19th century, for instance, mixed sexual relations and infidelity in marriage were looked down upon and hence difficult for characters such as Edward to openly be gay. Also, Harry and Joshua had to hide their relationship. In the second act, however, London has experienced a sexual revolution, and Characters such as Edward can openly be gay.
Symbolism is the use of objects to represent an occasion. Guns, such as that used by Joshua, symbolizes the violence that exists in Clive's world. Dolls such as Victoria symbolizing femininity while Betty's necklace that appears in the second act expressing his defiance to the family.
Gale, Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Caryl Churchill's" Cloud Nine". Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016.
Richards, Sally. "Caryl Churchill." Australasian Drama Studies 70 (2017): 209-213.
SINGH, ARCHANA VERMA. "Exploring The Feminine: Shifting Gender Roles in Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine." International Education and Research Journal 2.1 (2016): 34-35.
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