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Inherit the Wind

Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

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.