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!
At the end of Act Three, while conversing with Cates and Drummond, Rachel expresses her newfound appreciation for freedom of thought. In doing so, she addresses one of the most important lessons of Inherit the Wind. In the playwrights’ view, ignorance and fear combine to create conservative, fundamentalist value systems, like the one we see in the Hillsboro townspeople’s initial attitudes toward evolution. People cannot accept new ideas if they are not exposed to new ideas. Authority figures like Brady and Reverend Brown repress new, unorthodox thinking out of fear that unconventional ideas might disrupt the social order that they command. Over the course of the trial, Rachel overcomes this ignorance and fear of individual thought and combines this transformation with romantic feelings for Cates. This change in Rachel demonstrates the power of thought and of love.