Inherit the Wind Character Overviews and Quotes

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  • Topic: Scopes Trial, Inherit the Wind, Clarence Darrow
  • Pages : 15 (5391 words )
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  • Published : April 30, 2012
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Part 1 - Inherit the Wind Character List
Bertram Cates - A twenty-four-year-old science teacher and the defendant in the trial. A soft-spoken and humble man, Cates has been arrested for teaching his students the theory of evolution from biology textbook. His outlook on human knowledge is skeptical, and he wonders about the nature of the universe. IN DEPTH: As his jailer, Mr. Meeker, points out, Bertram Cates is not a criminal type. A quiet, unassuming twenty-four-year-old, Cates is innocent, naïve, and wondrous about the world—and he suffers emotionally as a result of the townspeople’s treatment of him. He struggles to stand up as an individual even as the crowd opposes his views and actions. Although he remains idealistic throughout Inherit the Wind, he often needs Drummond’s encouragement to persevere with his cause. Cates doubts himself at times, especially when Rachel pleads him to admit his guilt and beg forgiveness. In several instances in the play, Cates displays the humanity of an open, forgiving mind, as do the other evolutionists and progressives. Ironically, forgiveness comes more readily to Cates than to his staunchly Christian neighbors—foremost among them Reverend Brown, whose fire-and-brimstone sermons led Cates to abandon the church. Although Rachel unwittingly and unwillingly betrays Cates by testifying against him at Brady’s behest, he sympathizes with her pain as she becomes distraught during her time on the witness stand. In fact, Cates urges the court to dismiss Rachel from the stand, which denies her the chance to defend Cates when questioned by Drummond. In the end, when Cates leaves town with Rachel, we see that his trial has opened Rachel’s mind as well. Matthew Harrison Brady - A national political figure and a three-time loser in presidential campaigns who arrives in Hillsboro to lead the prosecution in Cates’s trial. A Christian fundamentalist and Nebraska native, Brady defends the literal truth of the Bible against what he labels Cates’s big-city agnosticism. Drummond, however, exposes the obvious contradictions of this viewpoint, much to Brady’s embarrassment. - IN DEPTH: At the beginning of Inherit the Wind, Brady arrives pompously, confident that the trial is as good as won. Scornful of the threat that Drummond might present to him as the opposing attorney, Brady exhibits hubris, or excessive pride, in failing to consider the prospect of his own humiliation. Playing on his home turf in rural Christian Tennessee, Brady basks in the glow of his simple-minded supporters’ praise. When Drummond undermines Brady’s authority, Brady breaks down, for he lacks the inner strength to reconsider his own beliefs and adjust to an unexpected challenge. We learn that Brady ran for president in three consecutive elections but never succeeded. This failure plagues him throughout his life and manifests itself during the trial. When Brady falls ill following his floundering responses to Drummond’s line of questioning, he deliriously spews forth the speech he had prepared for a possible presidential victory. Brady is a caricature of the real-life prosecutor William Jennings Bryan. Like Brady, Bryan lost three presidential elections and died shortly after the Scopes Monkey Trial. In Inherit the Wind, as in the national media in 1925, Brady’s / Bryan’s death symbolized the humiliation he suffered in the trial and the end of an obsolete brand of politics. Bryan was Democrat, but in the decades after his death, his party took on a more progressive, liberal stance. Not that conservative elements disappeared from American politics—they now exist as tenets of the Republican party. Although his politics and values are rigidly fundamentalist, Brady remains a complex character. Although he subscribes to a rather traditional brand of Christianity, he embraces more of the Bible than the Hillsboro preacher Reverend Brown does. When Brown harshly calls for eternal hellfire as punishment for Cates and all those who side with...
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