Inherit the Wind

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Monkeys Symbol Icon
The Hillsboro Trial, like the Scopes Trial on which it is based, is called, in the press, a “monkey trial.” This derives from the teaching of evolution, and the misbegotten, popular notion of evolution, that humans are descended from monkeys. (In reality, Darwin’s theory suggests that monkeys and humans shared a common ancestor, and diverged from one another biologically many, many millions of years ago). Hornbeck talks to a monkey, accompanying an organ-grinder, in Act One, joking that the monkey might be related to some of those present in Hillsboro. The idea of a “monkey trial” also includes the colloquial sense of “monkey-houses” as places where crazy people live with, and attempt to communicate with, one another. At times, the Hillsboro Trial verges on the absurd, as ideas about the nature of God and humankind are thrown around in a courtroom, and as Brady and others make grand pronouncements about God’s will for his people. Lawrence and Lee wish to show that monkeys ought not to be a replacement for man’s relationship to God. Rather, monkeys merely serve as a vestigial indicator of man’s heritage on earth—his interrelation to other animals, and his scientific lineage as a product of earth’s own development.

Monkeys Quotes in Inherit the Wind

The Inherit the Wind quotes below all refer to the symbol of Monkeys. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Science vs. Religion Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Ballantine Books edition of Inherit the Wind published in 2003.
Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Did you hear that, my friends? “Old World Monkeys”! According to Mr. Cates, you and I aren’t even descended from good American monkeys!

Related Characters: Matthew Harrison Brady (speaker), Bertram Cates
Related Symbols: Monkeys
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

Brady riles up his crowd, indicating that Cates's scientific teachings are not only unreligious but unpatriotic. Drummond and Hornbeck believe that it is instances like this that show Brady is "playing to his audience," and is, perhaps, relying on the ignorance and pliability of those around him. Brady likes to speak in longwinded paragraphs, and he is unafraid to make a jarring statement such as this one (bringing up the idea of "monkeys" again in order to make his audience feel outraged and superior), if it means it will pull the sympathies of those around him to his side.

But Drummond believes that Brady ultimately does his audience a disservice by appealing to their emotions rather than their intellect. Brady seems not to want to consider that those around him are capable of thinking critically, on their own, about the relationship between science and religion. This is exactly the opposite of Cates's original intention of teaching his students to keep an open mind.

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Monkeys Symbol Timeline in Inherit the Wind

The timeline below shows where the symbol Monkeys appears in Inherit the Wind. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Science vs. Religion Theme Icon
Morality, Justice, and Truth Theme Icon
Open-Mindedness vs. Closed-Mindedness Theme Icon
...the trial in the play is based, with some important variations, on the famed Scopes Monkey Trial of 1929. (full context)
Science vs. Religion Theme Icon
Morality, Justice, and Truth Theme Icon
Open-Mindedness vs. Closed-Mindedness Theme Icon
...what Howard has said, she runs off, and Howard yells that her father is a monkey. (full context)
Science vs. Religion Theme Icon
David vs. Goliath Theme Icon
Morality, Justice, and Truth Theme Icon
Open-Mindedness vs. Closed-Mindedness Theme Icon
...reporter for the Baltimore Herald. When an organ-grinder, a street entertainer, enters with a dancing monkey, Hornbeck jokingly talks to the monkey, and asks if it will be testifying in the... (full context)
Science vs. Religion Theme Icon
David vs. Goliath Theme Icon
Oratory, Performance, and Public Speaking Theme Icon
Morality, Justice, and Truth Theme Icon
Open-Mindedness vs. Closed-Mindedness Theme Icon
...Storekeeper responds that “opinions are bad for business.” Hornbeck jokingly talks again to the organ-grinder’s monkey, saying he (the monkey) is Brady’s ancestor. Townspeople waive banners (DOWN WITH DARWIN and DON’T... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Science vs. Religion Theme Icon
Oratory, Performance, and Public Speaking Theme Icon
Morality, Justice, and Truth Theme Icon
Open-Mindedness vs. Closed-Mindedness Theme Icon
...only by “cells”; that man is a mammal; and that man “evolved from Old World monkeys,” which themselves evolved from lower forms of animal life. Brady laughs at this response, and... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Science vs. Religion Theme Icon
David vs. Goliath Theme Icon
Oratory, Performance, and Public Speaking Theme Icon
Morality, Justice, and Truth Theme Icon
Open-Mindedness vs. Closed-Mindedness Theme Icon
...brings back the jury and the radio man announces, over the wires, that the Hillsboro Monkey Trial verdict is about to be delivered. The jury foreman reports that the jury has... (full context)