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.