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Inherit the Wind- Freedom to Think

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 fiancee, 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 differently and values the importance of free thought. Brady, also representing the town, carries the same ideas as of the town. Furthermore, Brady, when he was on the witness stand, refuses to give consideration to any of Drummond’s questions about the inconsistencies in the Bible and finally say “I do not think about things that . I do not think about! (p. 97)” Brady’s inability to consider different perspectives or open mindedness, to simply accept Christianity as it has been presented to him, or to even take the literal context of the Bible, makes him look ridiculous and resulted in his humiliation in the trial. Clearly, Drummond, as “the gentleman from Chicago,” brings some attention to the unconsidered assumptions of the people (p.87). It is evident that it takes an outsider to show the town can think for themselves and adept to progress of the outside world.

In addition to the town’s limited perspective, Drummond reveals the importance of free thought. Drummond tells the judge what is on trial is a man’s right to think. In the town’s law against the teaching of evolution, the people have not only dismissed a scientific theory but have in effect stated they don’t want to consider or dismiss it for themselves. The judge’s refusal to allow any expert scientific testimony about evolution from the defense makes this clear; the people of Hillsboro do not want to even think about evolution. The judge’s decision also reveals the threat to opinions of outsiders and wants to prevent the people from thinking. Moreover, the limited perspective is an outlook perspective, a black or white issue. The people are afraid of thinking about it, afraid of thinking. They want to believe what they have been taught to believe and are only concerned soley with Hillsboro and nothing beyond it.
The people of Hillsboro, with narrowed mindedness, are trapped in a world in which others’ opinions are the really important things in life. By others, it is the people in Hillsboro. This is the very reason why Rachel urges Cates to confess, merely because all the people believe him to be wrong. Rachel is also a teacher; however, she does not dare to express her own opinions by saying “I’d like to think that, but I can’t” in the conversion with Hornbeck (p. 33).

Only when she searches outside of herself, looking beyond her previous assumptions and ideas, does she gain self confidence and freedom of thought. Rachel reads Darwin’s On the Origins of Species and makes the decision on her own and leaves her father. Ultimately, thus, she realizes the power of thinking and ideas have to be born. Even though she is unsure of Darwin, Rachel is clearly moving away from the town’s perspective and thinks for herself. The power of thinking was a mean to escape the control of her bigoted, heartless father, Rev Brown. From her, it is clear that free thought is not only important from an intellectual standpoint but because it is necessary and valuable in human life. Without it, as Drummond says, no progress would ever be madenot only in technology but emotionally as well. The old ways are not always the best, for clinging to old customs demonstrates the immobile train of thought and the inability to truly see the world as it is.
In addition to not seeing beyond Hillsboro, the town and Brady seek the Bible for all answers. It is the way they have been taught to do.

They preach about Christianity and proclaim the importance of morality, according to the Bible. For instance, everyone was singing “Give me That Old Time Religion” in the parade waiting for Bray’s arrival to persecute heretical Cates. Another physical representation of Christian sentiment from the town is the “Read Your Bible!” banner which hangs over the entrance to the courthouse; moreover, it is a representation of the belief and understanding these people hold. They take the Bible literally, or as Brady says, “everything in the Bible should be accepted, exactly as it’s given there” (p.87). For Brady, it was more than taking the literal interpretation; it was complete acceptance. Brady, representing the town, is not willing to question or seek new interpretations; it was the unthinkable. This type of perception prevents the mind to progress and to shut down. In doing so, it forces oneself not to undergo the natural human process of wondering at that, which does not make sense. Consequently, one is inhibiting curiosity in the mind. While Brady chooses to accept the Bible and not to think, Drummond chooses to think. Drummond questions at things he does not know or understand; thus, he promotes the intellectualism and argues the freedom of thought as a basic right. In some sense, it is like believing in some so perfect with no substance. Drummond uses the Golden Dancer as the metaphor.

The Golden Dancer was a rocking horse that Drummond wanted when he was seven years old. His father worked nights and mother skimped on the groceries to buy the horse for his birthday; but as soon as he got on it and rocked, the horse split in two. Inside the shining exterior was rotten wood. Drummond says “all shine, and no substance” to urge Cates to look behind the fancy designs and paint; moreover, it it’s a lie, then reveal it as a lie. This is precisely what Drummond is doing- revealing to the people that they need to think and question about things. Aside as a thinker, Drummond allows room for spiritually by admitting there maybe a God somewhere, closer by. Inevitably, Drummond realizes that evolution can reconcile with religion by placing the Bible and Darwin together. Unlike Drummond, Hornbeck is a critic. Hornbeck’s harsh cynicism embraces thought for the possibilities it creates for understanding, even at the cost of the safety one feels with an unquestioned faith. In the conversion with Rachel in Act 1, Scene 1, Hornbeck represents the opposite spectrum to be more intellectual and more perspective by looking into the dark side to see its beauties and good things. His numerous allusions, such as calling Rachel “Little Eva” and “Sleeping Beauty” demonstrate that this is no ordinary trail and shows the viewers to look what is lying beneath for real meaning (p. 32 and 34). It is clear that Brady and the people of Hillsboro think simple and orthodox. They take everything is as it is, the face value.

The trial is the main event that revealed the town’s narrow mindedness and the intake on simplicity. In some way, there is a conflict of personalities, of individuals with strong conceptions of themselves and how others perceive them. For example, Brady relied on his role as great man coming from a small town while being a three-time presidential candidate. Brady strongly believes he is defend the faith on the world and is zealous in his efforts to do what he believes is right. The person of Hillsboro worshiped Brady until Drummond puts him on the stand. Drummond reveals Brady’s excessive pride and illogical beliefs in Act 2, Scene 2. Brady is so proud he reveals that he believes himself to be a prophet. Unfortunately, his ambition was not fully executed- he never was elected to be the President- and the humiliation in the court triggered by Drummond’s questions, Brady’s self worth was revealed. He collapses after guilty verdict and shortly died. It is a tragedy; however, some may say that Brady was strike down by God for aiming to high. In contrast to Brady’s orthodox, narrow mind, Hornbeck represents the broad, liberal and cynical mind. Even though he was sympathetic to Cates, Hornbeck mocks the towns ignorance and makes jokes at everything, even himself. Moreover, he lashes out on Drummond for seeing Brady as a good man and being religious as Brady at the end of the trial.

On the other hand, Rachel’s personality conflicts with herself and her fathers’. In the beginning she confirms to the minds of the town and the status quo. She has little conception of herself beyond the town and her father. Her father, Rev Brown, is a fire and brimstone preacher who scares the wits out of Rachel. When she was a little girl, she was more afraid of going to her father than being scared of the dark. This is revealed when Rachel was saying. “I wanted to run to my father, and have him tell me I was safebut I was always more frightened of him than I was of falling. It’s the same way now” to Drummond (p.55). Rachel follows the town’s views by urging Cates to confess and carries the inability to see the truth in the situation. Only when she begins to think on her own, Rachel begins to gain self-worth to act on her own. Rachel steps outside of the eggshell and thinks for herself. She overcomes her fear and decides to leave her father to start a new life with Cates.

Nonetheless, Bert Cates was the center of the trial. Despite the town’s view of Cates as a blasphemer, Cates know he did nothing wrong. Cates did not see through the same window as the does the town. He understands the complexity of the world and questions about what does not make sense. His curiosity extends when he questions about the stars and moon and whispers them into Rachel’s ear. Cates urges Rachel to see things beneath the surface and dig deeper to see the complications. The town condemns Cates because he taught evolution and broke the law. Cates is scared in court because the “people look at [him] as if [he] was a murder” (p. 50). However, Drummond assures him by saying that he cares about Bert and fighting for the freedom to think and question. Through the battle between Brady and Drummond, the jury finds Cates guilty. The judge fines Cates for $100 and Drummond says he will appeal the case; however, his victory is setting an example for others who choose to think. It will make it easier for the next person. Cates finds a new life with Rachel away from the small town Hillsboro.

The trial in Hillsboro is an allegory for the situation in the 1950s. In the 50’s, the government condemns people who supported Communism; thus leading to the censorious climate of McCarthyism. In addition to the witch-hunt and anti-Communist hysteria, regional conflicts between northern and southern states in the east of America. Laurence and Lee wrote the play to parallel some of conflicts of idea and subtly review them to the people. It was the method of exploring the major themes in the theses conflicts between intellectuals and believers, thinkers vs. narrow mindedness, and the relationship between the perception of others and self worth. Ultimately, Inherit the Wind encourages the right to think and the freedom of thought. In the attacking the value of free thought and speech upon which this country is built, nothing is obtained just like the situation in which Brady attacks his own house and inherits the windnothing.

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