Brady starts to retract his approval of Sillers, but Drummond objects. Brady cites a previous case in which he claims that Drummond tricked the jury. Drummond counters that he is attempting to defend the Constitution against those who oppose progress. The judge points out that constitutional matters are decided in a federal court. Drummond says he has to defend the Constitution somewhere.
The judge declares both sides out of order, states that jury selection is complete, and reminds the audience that Reverend Brown is holding a prayer meeting that evening. Drummond objects, claiming that the reminder is unfair. The judge says he is not aware of a meeting of evolutionists. Drummond says that the “Read Your Bible!” banner should be countered with a “Read Your Darwin!” banner. The judge calls the idea preposterous and declares recess. A crowd follows Brady out of the courtroom.
Rachel implores Drummond to call off the trial and asks Cates to beg forgiveness. Drummond asks Cates what he wants to do, and Cates says that the trial resembles a circus. Drummond jokes about the case, and Rachel scolds him for making light of a grave situation. Drummond apologizes to Rachel and describes his respect for Cates. He says he will give up the case only if Cates honestly believes he did wrong. Cates wavers but then firmly states that he will continue to stand trial. Rachel protests, but Cates asks her to support him. Upset, Rachel admits that Brady may call her to testify against Cates. Cates is shocked. As Meeker leads him back to his cell, Cates cries out that the jury will “crucify” him if Rachel reveals the content of their private conversations.
Drummond and Rachel talk. Rachel says that Brady scares her less than her father, Reverend Brown. She recalls being frightened as a child because she never knew her mother and greatly feared her father. Rachel asks Drummond if Cates is evil. Drummond calls Cates a good man and encourages Rachel to lend Cates her support.
The man who has everything figured out is probably a fool. College examinations notwithstanding, it takes a very smart fella to say “I don’t know the answer!”See Important Quotations Explained
As in the first scene, the playwrights communicate some of the key thematic ideas of Inherit the Wind in its stage directions. As the scene opens on the courtroom, “[t]he shapes of the buildings are dimly visible in the background, as if Hillsboro itself were on trial.” Indeed, the drama of the courtroom scenes plays out against the ever-present backdrop of the town and its people. This rural, conservative, and religious Southern town opposes the members of the defense, who must struggle to gain a voice for their ideas—concepts that much of contemporary society accepts as elementary biology.
The three potential jurors in this scene are similar, typical townspeople of Hillsboro. None of them betrays strong convictions or exceptional intelligence. Although all of them profess to be Christians, none stand out on the basis of extraordinary faith. Bannister emphasizes his eagerness to watch the trial from the jury box, like a show. His illiteracy, like that of the mountain man Elijah, points to Hillsboro’s backwardness. Dunlap differentiates himself by professing membership in the Matthew Harrison Brady cult of personality, and Drummond rejects him on these grounds. Drummond’s interrogation of Sillers is the first sign that the religious faith of the Hillsboro townspeople may not run much deeper than simple conformity. When Sillers admits that he leaves religion to his wife, we see the townspeople’s Christianity in a new light. We know that people in Hillsboro go to church and profess a belief in God, but we now wonder whether such behavior may be mere formality paid as a price of citizenship in the town, a lip service empty of spiritual meaning. Drummond exposes Sillers’s flimsy religious faith by probing deeper than Brady or the other people of Hillsboro are capable. Sillers may not be an atheist or an agnostic like Drummond, but his convictions do not run deep.