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On the courthouse lawn, two workmen discuss what to do
about the “Read Your Bible!” banner. One of them says they should
leave it up. Brady walks up, followed by a crowd of reporters, all
of them except Hornbeck taking notes. A British reporter asks Brady
his opinion of Drummond. Brady admits that the two of them were once
friends and that Drummond supported his 1908 presidential campaign.
He counters that even if is own brother, much less Drummond, were
challenging popular belief in the Bible, that would not stop him
from standing up for his beliefs.
Brady dismisses the reporters and then strikes up conversation with
Hornbeck. Brady calls Hornbeck’s reporting biased, and Hornbeck
responds that he writes as a critic, not an objective reporter.
Brady invites Hornbeck to Reverend Brown’s prayer meeting, and Hornbeck
says he won’t miss it. Hornbeck walks off, and Reverend Brown, escorting
Mrs. Brady, approaches Brady. After some chit-chat, Reverend Brown
strikes up the prayer meeting sternly from the podium. Drummond
enters and receives glares from the preacher. To quick response
from the crowd, Reverend Brown runs through the story of God’s creation
of the world as told in the Book of Genesis. Rachel enters in the
midst of the crescendo of call and response.
As Reverend Brown’s back-and-forth oration with the crowd reaches
a frenzied pitch, the preacher asks the crowd if they curse and
cast out the man who denies the story of Genesis, referring to Cates
by pointing at the jail. The crowd responds furiously, which causes
Rachel to shake. Reverend Brown asks the crowd if they should pray
for God to bring his hellfire down on Cates. He goes further, comparing
Cates to the Pharaohs and asking for “his soul [to] writhe in anguish
and damnation.” Rachel interrupts and asks her father to stop condemning
Cates. Reverend Brown calls out for the Lord to punish those who
want to forgive Cates.
Brady, who has been growing uncomfortable with Reverend Brown’s
sermon, interrupts. He cautions Reverend Brown and suggests that
the preacher should not try to “destroy that which you hope to save.”
Brady quotes the book of Proverbs and reminds the crowd of the Christian
message of forgiveness before dismissing them. The crowd leaves,
singing “Go, Tell It On the Mountain.”
After the crowd is gone, Brady approaches Drummond. Reminding
Drummond of their former friendship, Brady asks why Drummond has
abandoned him. Drummond replies, “All motion is relative. Perhaps
it is you who have moved away—by standing still.” These words surprise
Brady, and after a moment of startled silence, he walks backward
offstage, leaving Drummond alone.
The fundamentalist and evolutionist factions in the play
come into starker conflict in this scene. Whereas Drummond’s compassion
for Rachel at the end of Act I delineates kindness as the mark of
an open mind, the events of the prayer meeting thrust us back to
the fundamentalist perspective. By constantly shifting between these
perspectives, Inherit the Wind works as dramatic
theater, presenting one confrontation after another.
When the workmen who appear at the beginning of the scene decide
to leave the “Read Your Bible!” sign in its place, one workman declares,
“The Devil don’t run this town. Leave it up,” echoing Hornbeck’s
ironic greeting of Drummond at the end of the first scene. The playwrights
juxtapose Drummond’s compassion and understanding for Cates and
Rachel at the end of Act I with the workmen’s knee-jerk vilification
of Drummond as the devil.
As Reverend Brown approaches the platform to deliver his
sermon, the stage directions emphasize Hillsboro’s enthusiastic
reception of its spiritual leader: “The prayer meeting is motion
picture, radio, and tent-show to these people. To them, the Reverend
Brown is a combination Milton Sills and Douglas Fairbanks.” In this
rural community, religion is not only a guide for moral conduct
but also a primary source of entertainment. The playwrights’ comparison
of Reverend Brown to Milton Sills and Douglas Fairbanks—popular film
stars during the era of the Scopes trial—emphasizes
this point. Likewise, the style in which Reverend Brown delivers
his sermons resembles theater more than teaching. At the end of
the scene, we are left with the sense that fundamentalist Christianity
monopolizes the townspeople’s worldview. We feel that the residents
of Hillsboro may only profess their faith in this brand of Christianity
because small-town life has exposed them to little else. More exposure
to science, literature, or philosophy might cause them to waver
in their beliefs or to investigate and define them more critically.
Indeed, the townspeople’s shifting allegiances near the end of the
play confirm these possibilities.
The extreme nature of Brown’s sermon—which damns Cates and
all those who support him, including his own daughter—leads Brady
to voice a different opinion, one that contradicts Hillsboro’s brand
of fundamentalism. With Brown having whipped the crowd into a zealous
frenzy, Brady becomes uncomfortable and outright objects to Brown’s
treatment of his daughter. Brady reminds Brown of a quote from the
Bible, “He that troubleth his own house . . . shall inherit the
wind.” Brady implies that Brown, by bringing condemnation on his
own daughter, will leave himself with nothing but his own hot air.
In this departure, Brady distinguishes himself from Brown and his
docile Hillsboro followers by advocating the Christian practice
of forgiveness. When Brown curses his own daughter, practically
with glee, Brady reminds him that his mission is to save human souls—not
to hasten their damnation. Unlike Brown’s fire-and-brimstone sermonizing,
which draws heavily from parts of the Old Testament, Brady emphasizes
the more forgiving New Testament doctrines of Jesus. Although Brady
does display his share of weaknesses, notably his vanity and ceremonious
self-importance, his reaction to Brown’s sermon implies that he
possesses a compassionate streak that Brown lacks.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Inherit the Wind!