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 literal truth in the Bible, Brady appears to splutter, and to offer no coherent explanation of how the Bible provides verifiable truth. Drummond, then, has used his own techniques of performance—which include a sarcastic and joking manner—to best his “champion speaker” colleague, and to win the approval of the town, if not the jury. The third of the four major public speakers, or writers, in the play is Reverend Brown, Rachel’s father, who gives a fiery sermon, at night, outside the courthouse—one so inflammatory, and so strident in its criticism of Cates and Drummond, that it causes even Brady to blush, and to preach that Christianity is not so much concerned with punishment as with forgiveness. Brown’s oratory is mostly designed to intimidate, whereas Brady’s is designed to cajole and persuade, as is Drummond’s. Finally, Hornbeck, the reporter, is the play’s “chorus,” or observer who comments on the action of the play from a position somewhat removed from “center-stage.” Hornbeck’s commentary, which praises Cates and his resolve in fighting the state’s anti-evolution law, provide a sharply secular viewpoint, contrasting with Brady’s pro-Christianity, anti-evolution stance.
After Brady’s death, however, Drummond does not agree fully with Hornbeck—Drummond does not take the view that Brady was merely an antic-science buffoon. Instead, Drummond takes a more nuanced view, in his final speech, arguing that it is exactly Brady’s passion in arguing his cause that makes Brady a good man, if not always a correct one. Drummond respects Brady for his moral courage in expressing his views, just as he respects Cates for initially teaching evolution in the classroom, and for standing up for his beliefs.
In the end, the play privileges a kind of persuasive public speaking in which people stand up, courageously, for what they believe in—for people who argue based on fact and good reasoning, even if to argue, ultimately, for a compromise, as between freedom of religion and the freedom to teach science. In this sense, Drummond and Cates and Brady are all exemplars of noble public speaking, each according to his own manner. And Reverend Brown, along with Hornbeck, is motivated only by a desire to stir up and manipulate people’s emotions.
Oratory, Performance, and Public Speaking ThemeTracker
Oratory, Performance, and Public Speaking Quotes in Inherit the Wind
The unplumbed and plumbing-less depths! Ah, Hillsboro—Heavenly Hillsboro. The buckle on the Bible Belt.
I understand your loyalty, my child. This man, the man in your jailhouse, is a fellow schoolteacher. Likeable, no doubt. And you are loath to speak out against him before all these people. Think of me as a friend, Rachel. And tell me what troubles you.
Does Mr. Drummond refuse this man [Dunlap] a place on the jury simply because he believes in the Bible?
If you find an Evolutionist in this town, you can refuse him.
Well, I’m pretty busy down at the feed store. My wife tends to the religion for both of us.
In other words, you take care of this life, and your wife takes care of the next one?
I’ve seen what you can do to a jury. Twist and tangle them. Nobody’s forgotten the Endicott Publishing case—where you made the jury believe the obscenity was in their own minds, not on the printed page.
Can they make me testify?
I’m afraid so. It would be nice if nobody ever had to make anybody do anything. But—Don’t let Brady scare you. He only seems to be bigger than the law.
I know it’s warm, Matt; but these night breezes can be treacherous. And you know how you perspire.
Do we call down hellfire on the man who has sinned against the Word? . . . Strike down this sinner, as Thou didst Thine enemies of old, in the days of the Pharaohs!
No! No, Father. Don’t pray to destroy Bert!
Did you hear that, my friends? “Old World Monkeys”! According to Mr. Cates, you and I aren’t even descended from good American monkeys!
Let’s put it this way, Howard. All this fuss and feathers about Evolution, do you think it hurt you any?
Did it do you any harm? You still feel reasonably fit? Did it hurt your baseball game any? Affect your pitching arm?
No, sir. I’m a leftie.
One of the peculiar imbecilities of our time is the grid of morality we have placed on human behavior: so that every act of man must be measured against an arbitrary latitude of right and longitude of wrong . . . .
In this community, Colonel Drummond . . . the language of the law is clear; we do not need experts to question the validity of a law that is already on the books.
In other words, the court rules out any expert testimony on Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species or Descent of Man?
The court so rules.
Now tell me. Do you feel that every word that’s written in this book should be taken literally?
Everything in the Bible should be accepted, exactly as it is given there.
Bert, whenever you see something bright, shining, perfect-seeming—all gold, with purple spots—look behind the paint! And if it’s a lie—show it up for what it really is!
I feel I am . . . I have been convicted of violating an unjust law. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can.
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!
I’ll tell you Brady had the same right as Cates: the right to be wrong!
You see, I haven’t really thought very much. I was always afraid of what I might think—so it seemed safer not to think at all. But now I know. A thought is like a child inside our body. It has to be born. If it dies inside you, part of you dies, too!