Character, Sexual Identity and the Anti-Play: How Caryl Churchill Achieves Coherence Through Fragmentation and Inversion of Gender Roles in Cloud Nine
In Cloud Nine, playwright Caryl Churchill examines questions of gender identity, sexuality and individual freedom as they exist within two traditional, oppressive ideological paradigms: colonial imperialism and masculine hegemony. By juxtaposing these worlds of political and sexual dominance, Churchill draws a parallel between the paralysis exacted by both frameworks upon the development and expression of unique, authentic personhood. Churchill dramatizes her argument in startling fashion by challenging the touchstones of theatrical convention. Specifically, she defies usual methods of depiction, for some of the main characters in Cloud Nine are portrayed by actors who do not, in any physical or obvious way, resemble those characters. When violating spectator/reader expectation so drastically, the playwright runs the risk of alienating her audience. Because Churchill distorts and uproots the standards of dramatic characterization in such a bold way, the staging of Cloud Nine can potentially border on the ludicrous or gimmicky. So thrown is the audience, that members might start to disengage from the activity of the play and dismiss its theatrical experimentation as too blatant to be regarded seriously, too overdone to be clever or provocative.However, if such an impression of Cloud Nine is registered, I believe this is a failing not of the play but of an audience conditioned to assign fixed attributes to characters (or to drama generically) in order to render them intelligible. Cloud Nine is not interested in offering satisfaction in this rather prosaic manner, or of indulging its audience in this simple, customary process of understanding. In challenging her audiences to re-imagine what a “play” can look and sound like, Churchill simultaneously challenges them to re-imagine the traditional ideologies she wishes to consider. Therefore, coherence in Cloud Nine, if not achieved through a collective recognition of “form” or “character,” results paradoxically from its very lack of surface cohesion. It is through her style of fragmentation, redefinition and inversion of gender roles that Churchill can carefully examine her subject and construct a powerful polemic, her case for feminism.The manner in which I believe Churchill arrives at her greater, cohesive statement (through a layering of seemingly disjointed elements) is multi-fold. On the most immediate level, Churchill is attempting to deconstruct the concept of “gender,” divorce it from an erroneously assumed organic origin or justification (a.k.a. “sex”), in order argue that gender is neither “essential” nor “biological.” Rather, it is a social construct reflecting, and sustained by, a greater ideological framework. Therefore, Churchill must avoid treating her characters as autonomous, fully-realized independent “persons,” and represent them instead as vessels for the articulation of accepted social-sexual mores. She accomplishes this representation and lays the groundwork for her primary artistic and political argument, in the first act of her play. Act One of Cloud Nine takes place both literally and figuratively in the male imperialist milieu: set in a British colony in Africa during the Victorian era (colonialism), and featuring main characters whose gender is fixed but true sexual identity censored (masculine hegemony). In this first act, Churchill engages her distinct dramatic approach, her fragmented “gender-play,” in order to portray her characters’ sexual confusion. Betty, the wife of the primary patriarchal figure, Clive, is played by a man. Edward, Clive’s son who exhibits a significant—and thus unacceptable by patriarchal standards—degree of effeminate behavior, is played by a woman. In addition to the patent (anti-)characterization choices, the dialogue in Act One further attests to the notion that freedom of personal expression is stifled within a male-dominated social context. Specifically, the dialogue in this act reads/sounds highly contrived and controlled, as if filtered through the eyes, ears and lips of patriarchal forces (i.e. Clive). Absent from the subjugated characters, as a mark of their “slave” status, is a clear connection between speaker and content of speech. For example, Ellen, Edward’s governess, is one of the first sexually bold and progressive characters we encounter. She harbors, and attempts to express, romantic feelings for Betty. When she tries to profess this love, the figure of “Betty-as-man”/”Betty-as-Clive” seems completely ignorant to both Ellen’s innuendo and her more overt actions. In Scene Two of the first act, Ellen very deliberately, without hesitation or ambiguity, kisses Betty. But Betty simply bypasses this startling occurrence; she neither questions nor directly addresses the potential meaning behind the kiss. Instead, like a conditioned subject, Betty returns to the script of the patriarchy, discussing her adulterous—but more normative—feelings for Harry (Clive’s friend, and also a symbol of masculine hegemony). She says to Ellen, “Everyone will hate me, but it’s worth it for Harry…Harry says we shouldn’t go away. But he worships me.” Ellen then attempts to place herself in the “role” occupied by Harry, to stand as a lover for Betty, by replicating the form of his speech: “I worship you Betty,” she mimics. However, Betty cannot intuit the depth of feeling behind these lines, and mistakes Ellen’s words as merely an assertion of friendship. Later in the act, to Ellen’s explicit admission that she loves Betty and would rather die than leave her, Betty rationalizes: “You don’t feel what you think you do. It’s the loneliness here and the climate is very confusing. Come and have breakfast, Ellen dear, and I’ll forget about. Granted, I am reluctant to even personify Betty in this way, or attribute to her “form” any instance of self-guided thought or action. To do so confers onto Betty a kind of humanity or distinct individuality her lack of personal sexual awareness precludes. It is inevitable that Ellen will never speak or engage honestly with Betty, for the latter is not a genuine, free-thinking and organically-feeling “person.” She is the product of ideology, and the puppeteer pulling the strings behind her every move—the patriarchy—is undeniably omnipresent. Betty and similar subjugated characters are disconnected from their authentic sexual identities, as evidenced (and emphasized) by Churchill’s deconstructed style and cross-gendered casting. In Act Two, Caryl Churchill continues her deliberate theatrical experimentation by further manipulating the physical form of her characters and tampering with her audience’s expectation for consistency. Specifically, in this second act, she shifts established roles, instructing that they be portrayed by actors of the same sex (e.g. Betty is played by a woman and an adult-Edward by a male actor). By making these changes, and extending her degree of stylistic fragmentation, Churchill suggests that her formerly-oppressed figures have escaped the identity-defining fetters of the patriarchy. Characters now achieve a fuller reconciliation between mind and body, between words and feeling, as marked by a more honest expression of sexual preferences. Individual persuasions are embraced and possessed to a greater extent. For example, Act Two features the new character of Lin, an open lesbian who bluntly articulates her same-sex feelings for Victoria. She and Victoria hold an exchange in Scene Two where the two women, rather than their respective, manufactured “types,” engage in active debate. Lin’s personality seems to confound Victoria, who at one point complains, “You’re so inconsistent, Lin.” This line nicely demonstrates the differences in the worlds Churchill captures in the separate halves of her play. Firstly, this piece of dialogue reveals that Lin is permitted the luxury of a mercurial nature in Act Two, which itself is the marker of a complex, non-fixed identity. Secondly, the arousal of emotion and frustration Victoria conveys would not have been possible in Act One, where the opinions of main characters were safely and strictly “colored within the lines” of the social context. Additionally, in Act Two, Churchill bestows upon her more forthright homosexual characters strength of conviction and dominance of voice, in this way rewarding their honesty and hinting that theirs is the healthier sexual alternative. For example, there are moments in this second half of Cloud Nine where Victoria expresses her lesbian sentiments, thereby conveying liberation of thought, recognition of sexual identity, and transcendence over the paralysis of the patriarchal mire. She asks of Lin, with a kind of insecurity that testifies to the sincerity of her words, “Would you love me if I went on a climbing expedition in the Andes mountains?…Would you love me if my teeth fell out?…Would you love me if I loved ten other people?” However, she also vacillates, afflicted with uncertainty. Even though she hopes that Lin will love her through these different scenarios, Victoria rejects Lin’s invitation to come live with her. Lin, on the other hand, remains unfazed and responds, “Christ, don’t then. I’m not asking because I need to live with someone. I’d enjoy it, that’s all, we’d both enjoy it.” This lack of pretense reflects authenticity of character. Because she does not compromise her position, her desires, in the face of Victoria’s criticism and doubt, Lin prevails as the stronger, more self-actualized female character. However, to fully understand how Churchill skillfully arrives at the grand coherence of her work through a careful fragmentation of style, one must consider the fact that Victoria expresses any amount of reluctance to honor her true sexual desires. Compared to the confident voice and fully-aware, unapologetic figure of Lin, Victoria seems weak and even a little false. This is because she, unlike Lin, remains focused or interested in assuming a role of some kind, and consequently invokes the conformist expectations of the status quo. For example, earlier in Scene Two, Lin very simply and brazenly asks Victoria, “Will you have sex with me?” To this request, Victoria ambivalently responds, “I don’t know what Martin [her husband] would say. Does it count as adultery with a woman?” Her thoughts continue to be tied to, and conditioned by, the patriarchy. Rather than focus on her needs, interests and desires as aroused by Lin, Victoria is preoccupied with regard for her husband. She is more conflicted about the threat she might pose to the stability of their typical husband/wife dynamic than she is concerned about honoring her feelings for LinVictoria is not alone in presenting this most interesting paradox, between averring a sexual identity that challenges tradition, yet seeming to want to belong, or find her proper place, within that very same theoretical framework. Gerry, Edward’s partner, also clings to convention while simultaneously purporting to reject it. Feeling suffocated and no longer desirous of Edward, Gerry lashes out critically at him: You’re getting like the wife…stop it…stop playing the injured wife, it’s not funny…I’m not the husband, so you can’t be the wife. In these lines, Gerry is performing, hoping to convince not only Edward, but also himself, of a contempt for traditional sexual paradigms that is fundamentally fraudulent. By so vehemently expressing his dislike of these old-fashioned concepts, he in fact appears to subscribe to the standard more so than the object of his attack (Edward). Why the apparent contradiction? Why does Churchill bother reversing her initial cross-gendered casting, in order to vividly illustrate the dangers of male dominance, if she is only going to continue to depict some characters in the “better” world of Act Two as adhering to patriarchal tradition? Is she undermining her own style choices – for, if not journeying towards some greater, unifying purpose, does not the heightened fragmentation of the play remain relegated to the arena of pure contrivance? Perhaps – except for that the argument Churchill wishes to construct in Cloud Nine surpasses simple oppositional comparison. Churchill is not content simply proponing feminism as a preferable framework on the basis that it contradicts patriarchal thinking. After all, the most radical and free characters in Cloud Nine are the ones who do not conform to a structure, or play by a codified set of rules. Lin certainly falls into this category, as does the adult Edward of Act Two. Compared to Gerry, Edward, with his mellow, subdued and decidedly “un-dramatic” responses to his lover’s criticism, is the stronger and wiser of the two men. According to his own admission, he earnestly wants to act the wife (“I don’t mind that,” he asserts) and indulge the related domestic responsibilities. For example, he would very much like to knit for Gerry. He usually prepares dinner, but would not object to Gerry having a turn; Gerry is just a subpar cook: “You can if you like [make dinner],” he assures Gerry. “You’re just no good at it, that’s all.” Edward’s focus is much more pragmatic and realistic; his words attend to his true needs and desires. However, he does not regard these wishes or activities (such as knitting and cooking) as mechanisms of a greater social schema. They are simply his personal preferences. By expressing himself in a “traditional” manner, Edward is not perpetuating a patriarchal framework the way Gerry mistakenly assumes. Like Lin, Edward is merely heeding the mandates of his heart. “Everyone’s always tried to stop me being feminine,” Edward protests, and then affirms, “I’d rather be a woman.” In other words, Edward is not content simply being an overtly effeminate or gay man. Before he can fully express his sexual identity, Churchill suggests that Edward must completely purge himself of his exterior definition (his outward appearance as a “man”) and assume (or perform) an entirely different gender. This is the deeper, more provocative point Churchill has been chasing over the course of her play, and the most compelling and effective way in which her style of fragmentation coheres to frame her conclusion. Through her systematic deconstruction of form and character, Churchill successfully separates the social notion of “gender” from the biological determination of “sex.” She therefore dramatizes how gender roles are essentially vehicles of control, assigned by a patriarchal context as a means of sustaining its oppressive ideology. In recasting Act Two with actors who more closely match the gender of their “personas,” Churchill suggests that her characters are free to explore and honor their true identities. And it is precisely because the audience now expects these figures to demonstrate autonomy of thought, that the persistence of characters such as Victoria and Gerry to define themselves using neat terms and narrowly-conceived “roles,” seems antiquated, incongruous and inappropriate. It is against this backdrop of ostensible paradox and audience confusion that Churchill can piece together her ultimate message: it is not the manifestation of ideology, but the adherence to an ideology in and of itself, that presents a problem. Regardless of its complexion, whether patriarchal or feminist, radical or reactionary, unless one challenges the very infrastructure of paradigm, one is fated to perpetuate a stale (and inherently repressive) power dynamic. Because Victoria and Gerry continue to subscribe to a limited theoretical framework, they are not truly “free,” authentic individuals. They must completely re-imagine the parameters by which they interpret their sexual identity, for the ultimate goal cannot be the discovery or adoption of some kind of fixed “role.” As evidenced by characters such as Lin and adult-Edward, the greatest freedom and sense of personal identity is attained when one simply acts to benefit one’s own self-interests. On the opposite side of freedom, or at least the kind of personal freedom this play is pushing its figures towards, lie a number of “-isms”: feminism, anti-colonialism, egalitarianism, etc. The unwillingness of Caryl Churchill to represent character as a static entity in Cloud Nine is essentially a way of conceiving of these “-isms” so that they themselves do not become static. In order for a theoretical framework to remain fresh and relevant, and avoid devolving into an oppressive “standard,” it must be flexible enough to attend to the changing attitudes of the greater culture it serves. Churchill mimics this flexibility, this malleability of structure and frenetic energy of forward-movement, through her distinct stylistic approach. Her refusal to settle for stasis and standardization in the thematic construction and delivery of her drama is the grand, cohesive endeavor of the play. Through her rebellion against dramatic convention and the startling fragmentation of form this artistic experiment entails, Caryl Churchill argues convincingly for the promise of her characters’ sexual liberation outside the confines of traditional ideology.
Legacies That Cannot Be Escaped: The Connections Between Acts in Cloud 9
Cloud 9, by Caryl Churchill, is a farce in two contrasting acts that follows the life of a family. The first act takes place in a British colony in Africa, in Victorian times, and the second one takes place in London 1979, but for the members of the family the difference is just of twenty five years from one act to the other. The relation that the characters in the second act have to the characters in the first act imitates the human impossibility of not being influenced by what precede us.
What could be perceived as the characters ideals changes drastically from the first to the second act: Betty goes from living around Clive to leave him, and Edward goes from hiding his feminine attitudes to admitting them. Nevertheless, there are other changes that can be noticed by generations: Betty could not be with Ellen, but Victoria can be with Lin; Maud could not expect the company of men, but Betty is able to ask for it; Betty tried to go away with Harry, but Edward stops trying to keep a men who wants his freedom. The actions are not independent from the previous act, because all of them are linked either by being able what could not have been done or by being a reflection of previous actions.
In the first act when Betty suggests that Harry will “sometimes stay at home with [them]” (Churchill 9), Maud tells her that “[they] can’t expect it. The men have their duties and [they] have [theirs]” (Churchill 9). Even when Betty tried to go with Harry in the first act, she did not expect anything of him, neither to stay with her or to stand up by their relationship; she was the one that was going to sacrifice something by going away with him. However, the Betty of the second act is able to invite Gerry to her house at the end of act two. That previous incapacity to invite people over (“Betty: I don’t usually give strange man my address” [Churchill 8]) could be connected to the words of her mother, but Betty is able to get past that idea in the second act and not only expect a man to be at home with her, but invite him to. Betty is also able to get past a previous idea of herself when she leaves Clive in the second act, because in the first act, Betty’s first dialogue was: “I live for Clive” (Churchill 1).
Ellen tells Betty in the first scene that “[she] just want[s] to be alone with [her], and sing for [her] and kiss [her] because [she] loves [her]” (Churchill 38), and Betty tells her to “don’t be silly” (Churchill 39). The character of Victoria, functioning as if it were influenced by that dialogues, answers the same thing (“don’t be silly” [Churchill 66]) to Lin when she invites her to leave Martin and live with her. In that same page, the character of Lin even presents an idea as hers and then states that her “mother said it” [Churchill 66], which could add to the idea that everything that happens in the second act comes from “the past” even if it is a “past” not present in the play.
Edward also presents actions that could be perceivable as if it were the influence of her mother’s when as her, and as himself in act one, is attracted to a “free man”, but showing some kind of evolution, he does not try to go with this man but tells him that “[he] wouldn’t want to keep a man that wants his freedom” (Churchill 71). In that same scene he also presents an evolution of his character in act one, and he states it when he says: “Everyone always tried to stop me being feminine [… but] I like doing the cooking. I like being fucked” and accepts the feminine part that he tried to hide in the first act.
The characters’ actions are connected to other actions that occurred before, showing how somehow even what appears as new (the second act, the new characters, different actions) could be also perceived as what is old but with some modifications. By doing that, the characters and their actions imitate humans and its incapability to not behave under the influence of what preceded them. While showing this imitation, the play also becomes for the reader what will inevitably influence it, just for having had contact with the text, because as the text shows, being influenced is inevitable. The play, then, functions both as an imitation and influence (that was doubtlessly written under other influences), achieving to be what it represents.
Churchill, Caryl. Cloud 9. Hern, 1989.
Larkin, Philip. “This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48419/this-be-the-verse.
Subverting Original Gender: Gender Performance in Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9
Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill serves as a critique of British social standards—racism, colonialism, and especially sexism, gender roles, and sexual politics. The play takes place in two acts, with Act One set in Victorian Africa and Act Two in London in 1979, creating a parallel between a time of extreme sexual oppression and one of growing sexual liberation. In Caryl Churchill’s introduction to the play, she states: “The first act, like the society it shows, is male dominated and firmly structured. In the second act, more energy comes from the women and the gays” (Churchill). Not only does Churchill examine gender politics through the text of the play itself, she shows it through the performance itself. Therefore, gender itself becomes a performance. Judith Butler argues in “Gender Trouble” that gender does not exist beyond the cultural performances and actions that express it. This goes beyond the usual distinction of sex and gender, as many believe that sex is physical while gender is social and cultural. Butler challenges this to argue that sex, too, is a result of social and cultural practices. This theory of gender performance, specifically in regards to femininity, is expressed through Cloud 9 in the characters of Betty and Edward.
Betty represents the ideal Victorian woman and wife. She upholds extreme standards of femininity and is completely available to the whims of her husband. In the first act, she is played by a man. At first, this is a stark deviation from audience and reader expectations. A Victorian woman is the pinnacle of femininity, so seeing a man perform the role is jarring. This is actually quite effective on two different levels. First of all, it illustrates the performative nature of gender as explained by Butler. The actor does not necessarily appear as a woman physically, but must perform the correct actions for the audience to believe that Betty is, in fact, a woman—and these actions are precisely what make her a woman, as it is not her physical body. On the other hand, it serves as a commentary of the ideal Victorian woman, or what would count as the ideal Victorian woman in the eyes of her husband. Due to rampant and systemic sexism, husbands harbored resentment for their wives, and the traits they idealized, of course, were those of other men. Therefore, a man playing the wife of a traditional Victorian man is incredibly fitting. Not only this, but the Victorian woman was expected to center not only her life, but her entire identity of womanhood around men. Betty’s first quote in the entire play is:
BETTY. I live for Cilve. The whole aim of my lifeIs to be what he looks for in a wife.I am man’s creation as you see,And what men want is what I want to be. (Churchill 1)
This quote shows what being a woman means in the first act of the play. In the second act, in 1979, the world of the play becomes one of blossoming female liberation. The idea was becoming popular that women no longer had to center their womanhood around men—and thus, now Betty is played by a woman. She also now acts on her own desires, such as trying to pick up men. She even says: “I’ve never tried to pick up a man before” (Churchill 87). She has become her own person, a woman with actions that do not center the needs of men, but of herself.
Betty’s character is also largely reminiscent of Butler’s ideas about drag. This exaggerated performance of femininity by men goes to show that there is no original gender—it is always a performance. In “Gender Trouble,” Butler says, “In imitating gender, drag implicity reveals the imitative structure of gender itself—as well as its contingency” (Butler 2385). These elements of gender being performed are understood by society to be natural, but through the dramatic performances of drag, we can see that they are not at all. With a man playing Betty in Act One, these ideas about drag apply to her too—nothing about her femininity is natural. It is all performed.
Edward fulfills a very similar role. In Act One, he is portrayed by a woman, and in Act Two, he is portrayed by a man. In fact, the two actors playing Edward and Betty from Act One swap roles with each other. But, Edward does not perform masculinity in the same way that Betty performs femininity—his casting serves a different purpose. Edward fails to perform masculinity and finds it more natural to perform femininity instead. Edward’s first line in the play is:
EDWARD. What father wants I’d dearly like to be.I find it rather hard as you can see. (Churchill 2)This quote shows that from the very beginning, he is having trouble living up to the standards his father wants him to uphold. These are, of course, the standards of Victorian masculinity. Edward does not fit into the standard of ideal Victorian boyhood, and this is evident from the very beginning, as he is portrayed by a woman. There are also many textual examples. For instance, he wants to play with his sister’s baby doll. His parents and governess protest this, as dolls are not for little boys to play with. To this, Edward says: “She’s mine and she loves me and she won’t be happy if you take her away, she’ll cry, she’ll cry, she’ll cry” (Churchill 31). He also is not very good at playing catch, which, since he is a boy, his father expects him to be able to do well. Their exchange goes as such: HARRY. Throw straight now.EDWARD. I did, I did.CLIVE. Keep your eye on the ball.EDWARD. You can’t throw.CLIVE. Don’t be a baby.EDWARD. I’m not, throw a hard one, throw a hard one-CLIVE. Butterfingers. What will Uncle Harry think of you?EDWARD. It’s your fault. You can’t throw. I hate you. (Churchill 19)
Clive and Harry taunt him because he is bad at throwing the ball, therefore showing that masculinity is an action—in this case, throwing a ball. Therefore, casting him as a woman works to show his femininity and how he fails to meet the standards of Victorian boyhood and masculinity, and also shows his failure to perform the necessary actions for masculinity. In the second act, which takes place 25 years later for the characters even though it is technically much farther in the future, Edward is an adult and openly gay. Of course, homosexuality was prohibited in the Victorian era, and could be viewed as men performing femininity. 1979 ushered in an era of gay liberation, and while there was still extreme persecution, the idea of being a gay man was much more normalized. Edward still does not perform masculinity, though, and even among gay men there was a standard of masculinity to be adhered to that Edward does not quite fit. He still performs feminine tasks, like cooking dinner every night. His boyfriend Gerry comments on this:
GERRY. You’re getting like a wife.EDWARD. I don’t mind that. (Churchill 70)
To Edward, this is natural, but Gerry is uncomfortable as he interprets Edward’s actions as feminine. Gerry does not believe that Edward is naturally like this, since he is a man. Their exchange continues as follows:
GERRY. Stop it.EDWARD. Stop what?GERRY. Just be yourself.EDWARD. I don’t know what you mean. Everyone’s always tried to stop me being feminine and now you are too. (Churchill 70)Edward believes that his feminine actions are natural, and he does not like it when people express disapproval and try to get him to change. This has been happening his entire life with his parents and now the same thing is happening with his boyfriend in a different context. None of Edward’s various performances of gender serve to benefit him. Butler says: “Hence, as a strategy of survival within compulsory systems, gender is a performance with clearly punitive consequences” (Butler 2387). Edward’s performances and actions allow him to survive in his own way, but he is punished by essentially everyone for it. After Gerry leaves, he has the following conversation with Victoria, his sister:
EDWARD. I like women.VICTORIA. That should please mother.EDWARD. No listen Vicky. I’d rather be a woman. I wish I had breasts like that, I think they’re so beautiful. Can I touch them?VICTORIA. What, pretending they’re yours?EDWARD. No, I know it’s you.VICTORIA. I think I should warn you I’m enjoying this.EDWARD. I’m sick of men.VICTORIA. I’m sick of men.EDWARD. I think I’m a lesbian. (Churchill 72)
Through this passage, we understand that Edward is comfortable enough with his feminine actions to the point where he might want to be a woman. Therefore, if he were to be a woman, he would love women through the lens of femininity as well, which is why he says “I think I’m a lesbian.” It is not clear whether Edward decides that he is in fact a woman by the end of the play. He sleeps with both Lin and Victoria, but also gives Gerry a second chance. Lin, Victoria, and Gerry all view Edward as a man still. Before their first orgy, while they are attempting to drunkenly summon spirits, Lin says, “She won’t appear with a man here” (Churchill 74). She is referring to the presence of Edward. At the end of the play, while Gerry is talking to Betty, he refers to Edward as gay and with masculine pronouns, so it can be assumed that Gerry still thinks of him as a man as well (Churchill 87). This leaves the audience with a very ambiguous sense of Edward’s gender, which further subverts the notion of original gender. Edward is obviously uncomfortable with performing masculinity, but at the same time does not fully perform femininity, or at least not within the time this play takes place. It is impossible to define Edward through one specific gender—he is just Edward. His actions and performances do not give us a clear conclusion.
Betty and Edward fall on both sides of the spectrum of oppressive gender roles, and they both navigate this oppression through their individual performances of gender. Betty performs the duty of the Victorian housewife until she enters a time of women’s liberation, and Edward fails to perform masculinity and would instead rather perform femininity, even though this choice is never really supported. Both instances prove Butler’s theory that there is no true original gender, and instead gender is a performance enforced by social and cultural elements.
Works CitedButler, Judith. “Gender Trouble.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, third edition. Vincent B. Leitch. Norton & Company, 2018.Churchill, Caryl. Cloud 9. Theatre Communications Group, 2010.