Inherit the Wind

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Inherit the Wind, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Bertram Cates has taught evolution in the high school of a small town (Hillsboro, state unnamed), in violation of a state law banning exactly this. The state instead requires that teachers teach creationism—the theory that God created the earth and humankind in keeping with the Biblical Book of Genesis. The play is inspired by real-life events in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925: the Scopes “Monkey Trial,” wherein a teacher, John Scopes, also taught evolution to…

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Inherit the Wind contains an overlapping network of characters perceiving themselves to be underdogs (or “Davids,” in the Biblical story of David and Goliath), who pit themselves against more powerful figures of authority (“Goliaths”). Bertram Cates is the novel’s first “David.” He has placed himself in opposition to the law of his state, for the sake of an idea—that science ought to be taught in a science classroom. If Cates is a David, then, the…

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The play dramatizes oratory, performance, and public speaking as means of persuasion. The play’s most notable orator is Brady, famous for his grand speeches and his presidential campaigns. Brady’s speeches, in favor of “old-time” Christian values, are well-received by Hillsboro residents in the beginning of the play, but as the trial goes on, Drummond eventually gains the upper hand. Specifically, when Brady is called to the stand, and when Drummond cross-examines him regarding the…

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The play is also an examination of moral teachings, justice, and the relationship of each to truth. Cates teaches human evolution in class because this is the best scientific theory humans have to explain the existence of humans on earth. Members of the local school board, however, consider that Cates has done something irreligious—that his teaching of Darwin goes against Christian moral precepts. The state law banning teaching of evolution regards the Bible as the…

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Finally, Inherit the Wind contains a detailed discussion of what it means to open- or closed-minded in a complex, modern society. Drummond is the primary vehicle for this discussion, as he conceives of the trial’s fundamental question as, essentially, a philosophical one: Drummond believes he is fighting for the right of private citizens to think whatever they want, and to share their thought-processes with others. Cates, for his part, questioned the balance of evolution…

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