full title · Inherit the Wind
playwrights · Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
type of work · Play
genre · Courtroom drama
language · English
time and place written · Early 1950s; United States
date of first publication · 1955
publisher · Random House
tone · Playful and ironic at times, but often carries weighty symbolic significance
setting (time) · The playwrights define the setting as “not too long ago,” also noting in their notes preceding the play that “It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow.”
setting (place) · A fictional town called Hillsboro, in the rural South; the playwrights imply that these events could have taken place in any small town in America.
protagonist · Bertram Cates
major conflict · After being arrested for teaching evolution to his science classes, Bertram Cates becomes the center of a controversial trial about religious fundamentalism versus the freedom of individual thought.
rising action · Cates teaches evolution to his science classes; Cates is arrested for violating the law that bars the teaching of evolution; Matthew Harrison Brady and Henry Drummond represent, respectively, the prosecution and the defense, drawing national attention to the trial.
climax · When Brady flounders under Drummond’s line of questioning, the courtroom spectators shift their support to Cates.
falling action · Cates and Drummond consider their trial a popular and societal victory and decide to prepare an appeal; Brady becomes flustered and humiliated and, shortly after, dies of a “busted belly”; Rachel leaves her father and learns the power of individual thought.
themes · Fundamentalism vs. freedom of thought; the individual vs. society; the conflict of urban and rural attitudes
motifs · Love; the chorus
symbols · Golden Dancer; Hillsboro
foreshadowing · Brady’s gluttonous behavior foreshadows his later death from a “busted belly”; the playwrights’ stage directions describe Hillsboro as a “sleepy, obscure country town about to be vigorously awakened,” foreshadowing the significance of the trial.