Study Guide

Cloud 9 Repression

By Caryl Churchill


"My skin is black but oh my soul is white. / I hate my tribe. My master is my light." (1.1.24-25)

Joshua is a black servant living in a white household. But worse still, he seems to have adopted the English idea that whiteness is superior to blackness, and so has rejected his family and friends in favor of the people who treat him as a subordinate. Or at least that's what he says at first… dum dum dum.

"What father wants I'd dearly like to be. / I find it rather hard as you can see." (1.1.30-31)

As we quickly find out, Edward identifies more with feminine characteristics than masculine ones. But his dad wants him to become a manly man, so Eddy is caught in a bind between his true self and the person his father wants him to be. Real original plotline, huh?

"Yes, it's manly of you Edward, to take care of your little sister. We'll say no more about it." (1.1.224-225)

When Clive finds out that his son Edward likes to play with his sister's doll, Clive decides that Edward isn't playing with the doll at all, only minding it for his sister. And that is what you call repression. Clive is totally ignoring reality so that he can keep believing that his son will become a tough, butch dude.

"I suppose getting married wouldn't be any worse than killing myself." (1.4.158-159)

Harry Bagley has lived a lie his entire life. He's never really told any other adult that he enjoys having sex with males, particularly young boys. But now that Clive has found out about his true desires, the only way for Harry to keep living in a homophobic society is to bury his true self by marrying a woman. Harry's other option for escape is killing himself, so he figures getting married isn't the worst thing in the world.

"Not my people, sir." (1.4.180)

Joshua has completely repressed the fact that he's black, which is exacerbated by the fact that the script calls for him to be played by a white person. But Joshua also shows his repression by claiming to hate other Africans over and over again. This is exactly how white colonial culture wants him to feel, because the whole point of colonialism is to get the colonized peoples to believe that their being colonized is a good thing.

"Don't go around saying that. I might lose my job." (2.1.133)

Edward doesn't like it when Lin calls him out in the park for being gay. Sure, it's the modern age in Act 2. But that doesn't mean that everyone's as understanding as Lin. Edward's boss, for example, would probably fire him if he found out Edward was gay. Cue the repression, and Edward's attempt to hide who he really is.

"I used to touch myself when I was very little, I thought I'd invented something wonderful." (2.4.118-120)

Betty has spent her whole life avoiding the knowledge that she really enjoys sex. Like a traditional gentlewoman, she has always believed that sex is a duty that she performs for her husband and her country. But now that's she's older and she has left Clive, Betty can finally get in touch with herself (so to speak) and overcome her sexual repression. Get it, gurl.

"I think Edward did try to tell me once but I didn't listen." (2.4.259-260)

Not only does Betty have trouble acknowledging her own sexual tastes; she has trouble acknowledging her son Edward's as well. It takes a direct confrontation with Edward's gay lover Gerry to finally make Betty understand who her son truly is. And for Churchill, nothing could be better than this sort of acceptance, both for families and for society.

"I love you too, Ellen dear. But women have their duty as soldiers have. You must be a mother if you can." (1.4.81-82)

Ellen tells Betty that she like-likes her. But rather than recognize what's actually being said, Betty shakes off the comment with a Platonic, "I love you too dear, " and tells Ellen that there's no escaping her destiny as a woman in colonial England. Ellen needs to find herself a male husband and have some babies to help spread British culture all over the globe. Or in other words: repress, repress, repress.

"That was the worst thing/ in the f---ing army. Never f---ing let out. Can't f---/ -ing talk to Irish girls." (2.3.111-113)

Of all the people who stumble into Lin, Edward, and Victoria's orgy, the strangest has to be the ghost of Lin's brother Bill, a British soldier who's just died in Northern Ireland. But Bill hasn't come back to haunt his sister. He's come back because he wants to be a part of the orgy. He's frustrated because he was never allowed to have sex with any of the girls in Northern Ireland.