Inherit the Wind

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The Wind Symbol Analysis

The Wind Symbol Icon
As the play’s title indicates, the wind is a central symbol of Lawrence and Lee’s work. The line from Proverbs, quoted by Brady and then, after Brady’s death, by Drummond, goes as follows: “He that troubleth his own house . . . shall inherit the wind.” The phrase may be interpreted a number of ways, but one seems clear: if a man sows discord among those that he loves, and among those that love him, he will soon learn that physical nearness, and kinship, will desert him—that only “the wind,” or the idea of those relationships, will remain to him. Reverend Brown preaches not God’s love but God’s hate, and his daughter Rachel leaves town to be with Cates, at the play’s end. Brady, though he tries to love his fellow man, falls prey to his own sense of personal vanity, and watches as his loving crowds dwindle to only a small group, then to no one at all, as the trial comes to a close. Drummond also senses the “winds” of change that sweep through the court during the trial—the people of Hillsboro, and of America, come to realize that a compromise between religious belief and scientific fact is not just possible—it is the bedrock of an open-minded society, one that is inclusive of different opinions, and one that champions a person’s right to think for himself or herself.

The Wind Quotes in Inherit the Wind

The Inherit the Wind quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Wind. 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 1 Quotes

I know it’s warm, Matt; but these night breezes can be treacherous. And you know how you perspire.

Related Characters: Mrs. Brady (speaker), Matthew Harrison Brady
Related Symbols: The Wind
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

This is an instance of foreshadowing, in which Mrs. Brady tells her husband to be careful not to exert himself too much in the heat. Interestingly enough, a cooling breeze might be useful for Brady, who has more trouble in the heat than he does in a particularly windy situation. Nevertheless, "breeze" and "wind" are concepts strongly connected to Brady—his speeches tend to be on the "windier" side, and Hornbeck believes that Brady might be nothing more than "hot air," a speaker who cares more about his reputation than he does about the "common people" he champions.

Brady is therefore a complex character—seemingly invulnerable, but physically more frail than those around him.

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Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart.
We’re growing an odd crop of agnostics this year!

Related Characters: E. K. Hornbeck (speaker), Henry Drummond (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wind
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

Drummond quotes from the Bible (the text which gives the play its title), and Hornbeck is surprised to hear that Drummond is willing to find any wisdom in that text. This draws the significant difference between these two men. For Drummond, the Bible can be a source of real ethical teaching, and a source of spiritual power for those who believe in it. The problem comes when the Bible is trotted out to prove one's personal arguments or vendettas, or to keep people from thinking on their own—in other words, to quash the independence of spirit.

Indeed, Hornbeck's unwillingness to consider the position of those who are accepting of religion—who are believers or agnostics but not absolutists—is in a way just as dogmatic as Brady's position. Drummond believes this to be true, and the playwrights make it clear that Hornbeck's position is as blinkered as Brady's.

Within the actual Bible quote itself, the writers again bring up the concept of wind. Here the symbol represents both wind as a kind of emptiness—the result of turning against truth or basic compassion and clinging to absolutism—but also as a kind of wind of change, bringing in new ideas to the public—as this trial hopefully will do.

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The Wind Symbol Timeline in Inherit the Wind

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Wind appears in Inherit the Wind. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2, 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
...not much, new, that he would learn from it. Mrs. Brady warns Brady that the wind tonight, combined with the warm air, could be uncomfortable for Brady, but he shrugs off... (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
...Book of Proverbs: “He that troubleth his own house . . . shall inherit the wind.” Brady ends the sermon by asking that, as children of God, all men and women... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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
...objects, saying only Bible questions may be asked—Drummond says he “gets the scent in the wind” and vows to stick to a biblical line of inquiry. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Science vs. Religion Theme Icon
David vs. Goliath Theme Icon
Morality, Justice, and Truth Theme Icon
Open-Mindedness vs. Closed-Mindedness Theme Icon
...Bible and the verse from Proverbs: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart.” Drummond says that “there... (full context)