As probably the best courtroom dramas of the twentieth century, Inherit the Wind is based on the famous, Scopes Monkey Trial. The play was printed virtually thirty years afterward and takes original authority in varying the true-life elements of the court case. The central conflict of the play is based on the Scopes Monkey Trial itself. Several themes are presented throughout the play, for example when Brady argues for religious values while Drummond argues for natural values and freedom of thought.
The definition of a theme is an implicit or recurrent idea. We also see a theme of man versus society, furthermore, Bertram Cates versus the small town of Hillsboro. A third theme is appearance versus reality, or the difference between outward pretext and the basic truth. There are also quite a few symbols all the way through the play. A symbol is something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible. A symbol can also be an image that has multiple interpretations.
For instance in Inherit the Wind, the small town mentality concept is greatly represented. The widespread significance of the court case is symbolized by the radio broadcast during the trial. External beauty is also significant when it is symbolized by the means of the rocking horse we learn about from Drummond's childhood. During the decade of the Scopes Monkey Trial, the conflict of evolution and the bible has massive relevance to the municipal and philosophical surroundings.
The primary theme of Inherit the Wind is clearly the broad conflict of fundamentalism on the side of religion as well as freedom of thought. The trial addresses the anxiety between a community controlled by forces of political, religious, and nationwide, as well as a society that grants the individual freedom to think for oneself. The playwrights, Lawrence and Lee, introduce a chain of opposites, or a notion of "doubling." We see this is the shape of character traits, surroundings and atmospheres, and ideas. The characters of Brady and Drummond are distinguished as very contradictory.
Although they are both lawyers, they have extremely conflicting views on thinking. On one hand, Brady is very closed-minded. He truly believes in the bible and that one God created earth and everything on it. On the other hand, Drummond is very open-minded. He deems the appropriate decision for this case is the freedom to think. As the defendant for Bertram Cates, Drummond upholds his beliefs of natural, scientific evolution.
Cates questions the law and customs of the Hillsboro community. He is faced with vast hostility and disapproval amongst the townspeople and must put together a verdict whether or not to continue his case. This evidently creates a conflict between man and society. He experiences feelings of isolation, but eventually settles on believing that the law he has broken is unjust and is firm with carrying on with the trial.
Drummond's character also comes into contact with a struggle versus society. However, since he is older and wiser and has more experience, he is able to give advice and reassure Cates with his knowledge. This knowledge consists of the fact that one human being can make a difference. An individual is capable of moving society forward when they have adequate bravery to track down the real truth in spite of others opinions.
He then tells Cates that the disagreements will never end and that throughout history, individuals have argued with shared values by insisting that the population should reconsider their previous statements. Rachel also has a conflict with her point of view towards society. In the opening of the play, it seems as if Rachel is very concerned about how others look at her and Bert. Eventually, however, in the conclusion of the play, we see that she has learned to understand the significance of the grasp of right and wrong of the individual.
The last theme frequently focused on in Inherit the Wind is that of inconsistency concerning material on the surface and the fundamental underlying truths. Appearance versus reality is delivered by means of the portrayals of the characters of Brady and Drummond, and by the persistent notion of the hunt for actuality. Brady, a well-known ultraconservative spokesperson and congressman, electrifies the town of Hillsboro with his extravagant manner of communication and impressive representation of thoughts, images, and biblical citations.
As the hearing advances, the spectators in the courtroom begin to realize that beyond the tempting appearance of his language, there is slight authentic substance. Alternatively, Drummond's approach of diction and idiosyncrasies in the courtroom are unsuccessful in appealing the jury in the beginning. He then confirms his importance as a lawyer and the importance of Cates's cause through his insistence, self-assurance, and adept judgment. He carefully explains the importance of this underlying truth to Cates because he is a noble seeker of truth.
As Drummond and Cates wait for the decision, Drummond instructs Cates by explaining the theory of not judging a book by its cover. It is evident that Drummond has learned to care little for external banter as he shares this lesson with Cates. At this point, Brady's tasteless core is out in the open as he becomes irritated and embarrassed when his pompous talents no longer demonstrate adequate to the trial's missions.
The images of symbols are also widely spread throughout the play, Inherit the Wind. A few that I believe are important are Drummond's childhood rocking horse, the radio broadcast, and the town of Hillsboro. Right before the verdict, Drummond recalls of a story from his childhood. He was only seven years old and Golden Dancer was a beautiful rocking horse. He would stand outside the window of the general store and think to himself that if he had Golden Dancer, he would have everything in the world that he wanted. He woke up one morning and there she was.
His parents had worked extra hard for his birthday present. He jumped into the saddle and suddenly it "split in two". The wood had rotted underneath the bright, shining, perfect-seeming rocking horse. This rocking horse represents the misleading nature of external good looks. In spite of its shine and beauty, it still broke when Drummond sat on it. This symbol is used to put across to Cates the significance of the search for truth and the exposure of people and thoughts as they truthfully are.
At the beginning of the trial, a radio is brought in to the courtroom to broadcast the trial nationally. This radio becomes a symbol for the prevalent importance of the court case in addition to its application to national trends and pressures. The actual Scopes Monkey Trial marks such an occasion of the first time a trial has been broadcast all over the country. The radio also symbolizes the quick scientific and technological progression of the start of the twentieth century, over and above the penalties of technology for habitual, customary, rural life.
The third and final symbol is that of the small town of Hillsboro. It is unknown to what state Hillsboro is actually in because the playwrights, Lawrence and Lee, purposely left that bit of information out of the play. Hillsboro does not have a direct importance as an individual town however it is a symbol of small towns across the country as well as the simple-mindedness that these towns foster.
As I previously described there are many sets of opposites found in the play Inherit the Wind. One of them lies in the dichotomy among small town life and urban life. Since the urban standard of living naturally includes more diversity than the small town, developments more frequently dwell in cities rather than small towns.
As portrayed in the play, fundamentalism was much more common in small towns since religion restricted a large amount of the ethical behavior and attitudes there in the time period of America. Cities on the other hand, there was swift urbanization, vast immigration, and great technological improvements provided city occupants with a broader variety of theories. In this fashion, the conflict of fundamentalism opposed to progressivism grows to be very much connected to the conflict of traditional farmers versus urbane city-dwellers. Lawrence and Lee portray the townspeople of Hillsboro as have an unsophisticated dialect, uniform, and performance, compared with Hornbeck and Drummond who are similar to chic city inhabitants in clothing, act, and language.
In the famous play, Inherit the Wind, the playwrights, Lawrence and Lee, use many themes regarding life as well as symbolizing subject matter. Such themes include fundamentalism versus freedom of thought, man versus society, and appearance versus reality. A few symbols in the play were Golden Dancer, the rocking horse, the small town of Hillsboro, and the radio and its broadcast. This play was written to illustrate themes and symbols while it is based on the Scopes Monkey Trial.