Inherit the Wind- Freedom to Think

Topics: Scopes Trial, Mind, Thought Pages: 6 (2559 words) Published: March 17, 2005
Inherit the Wind, based on the famous "Scopes Monkey Trial" in the small town Dayton, Tennessee, was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. The play was not intended to depict the actual history or the proceedings in the Scopes' trial but it was used as a vehicle for exploring social anxiety and ant-intellectualism that existed in the Americas during the1950s. Lawrence and Lee wrote the play as a response to the threat to intellectual freedom presented by the anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthy era. The major themes depicted in the Inherit the Wind include the intellectual curiosity, narrow-mindedness or limited perception, the importance of religion, and the relationship between the perception of others and self-worth portrayed by the characters in the play. The characters include Henry Drummond, Matthew Harrison Brady, E.K Hornbeck, Bert Cates and Rachel Brown; they represented the ideas and ways of thinking that existed then and now.

Inherit the Wind took place in the small town of Hillsboro in which ‘the time was not too long ago.' Bert Cates, a young teacher, who is imprisoned in the jail for teaching evolution to his high school biology class. The Reverend's daughter and Cate's fiancée, Rachel, urges Cates to tell the town what he did was wrong and he is sorry; however, the town firmly believes that Cates is wrong and awaiting for Matthew Harrison Brady to come to town to prosecute Cates. Brady is a three time presidential candidate and firm believer in the Bible. The town hung a banner "Read your Bible" on courthouse and paraded the streets enthusiastically singing "Give me that old-time religion" when Brady arrives into town. Also arriving in Hillsboro, is E.K Hornbeck of the Baltimore Herald, who is cynical reporter and comments on everything. Hornbeck informs Brady that he will be arguing against Henry Drummond in court. The town sees Drummond as the devils advocate. Drummond arrives in town with little notice and is shunned by the people in town. In the course of the trial, Brady starts out confidently and chooses witnesses who profess strong religious belief. Brady calls for Rachel to be on the witness stand and twists her words about what Cates has told her. Meanwhile, the judge excludes all Drummond's scientific witness on the grounds of evolution itself is not on trial. Drummond calls Brady to the witness stand and reveals Brady's literal acceptance of the Bible and presentation of himself as a prophet. The jury brings a guilty verdict and the judge charges Cates a fee of $100 dollars. Brady collapses and shortly afterward dies. Rachel and Cates decide to leave the town together. The play ends with Drummond alone in the courthouse with a copy of Darwin's Origins of Species and Bible, which he puts them together in his briefcase.

The essential theme expressed in Inherit the Wind is narrow mindedness vs. intellectual curiosity. As the play opens, the writers described the town of Hillsboro as being "visible always, looming there, as much on trial as the individual defendant ( p.3)." They go onto describing the courtroom with walls, in which the town square, shops, and streets were always visible. In making the town always visible, it is evident to the viewer that the court case is not just a question of disembodied ideas or legal principles. Instead, the play and the court case it dramatizes the mean to challenge an entire way of life and thinking embodied by Hillsboro, a small Southern American town. The writers zoomed in on the people residing in this town and revealed the homogenous nature. The citizens attend the same church, hold the same beliefs, and join together to condemn Cates, a man who dared to express an opinion different from theirs. Cates is a courageous and idealistic young teacher. He carries the natural tendencies of human nature-curiosity; thus he poses questions at which does not make sense. Cates poses danger to the town with limited perspective because he thinks...
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