Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Golden Dancer, a rocking horse Drummond received from his parents as a child, represents the deceptiveness of external beauty. Despite its bright shine and color, the horse broke the first time Drummond rode it. Drummond uses this symbol to convey to Cates the importance of the search for truth and the exposure of people and ideas for what they truly are. As Drummond instructs Cates, “Bert, whenever you see something bright, shining, perfect-seeming—all gold, with purple spots—look behind the paint! And if it’s a lie—show it up for what it really is!” Cates, whose classroom microscope reveals physical realities that the naked eye cannot see, is already familiar with this principle. Drummond’s words, however, help Cates to realize that his defeat in court may actually be a victory for his cause.
When the radio man enters the courtroom to record the trial, the recording marks the first time a trial is broadcast nationally in the United States. In fact, the Scopes trial, the inspiration for Inherit the Wind, marked that occasion in real life. The radio symbolizes the rapid technological advancement of early twentieth-century America and the consequences of that technology for traditional rural life. The radio also recalls the modern technological devices that Drummond challenges Brady and his witnesses to conceive of in biblical terms—a key element of his argument that ultimately wins over the courtroom audience.
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