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.