Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
The main theme of Inherit the Wind is the danger of censorship. People in a democracy need to be encouraged to think for themselves and to read what they want. During the course of the play, Drummond points out the narrow-mindedness of Brady and the others who support censorship and refuse for Darwin to be taught in a classroom. These conservatives take the Bible so literally that they appear irrational in their thinking, and Drummond is able to bring out this irrationality by putting Brady on the stand. Even Rachel Brown, the conservative daughter of the town's minister, is changed by Drummond. At the end of the play she states that she has been wrong in her thinking. She admits that all ideas should be presented; if they are good ideas, they will live on, and if they are weak, they will die out.
One minor theme of the play revolves around courage, mainly represented by Cates. He was brave enough to challenge the system and teach Darwin in the classroom, believing that students had the right to know both sides of the creation story. He was then brave enough to go through with the trial instead of pleading guilty and accepting some punishment. His attorney, Drummond, also shows courage. He took a risk putting Brady on the stand, for the courtroom had clearly been supportive of the famous attorney for the prosecution. Rachel also shows courage. Throughout the play, she is weak and fearful. She begs Cates to admit his guilt and cease the trial, and she begs Drummond to call it all off. By the end of the play, swayed by Drummond's presentation, Rachel is courageous enough to read Darwin's book, to admit that she has been wrong in her thinking, and to dare to upset her father by leaving town with Cates.
A second theme revolves around the question of evolution. Throughout the play there are clear arguments given for both Darwin's theory and for the Biblical story of creation. The playwrights clearly indicate that there is not one obvious answer about the beginning of the world. This is symbolically represented at the end of the play when Drummond, the defender of evolution, clearly picks up both Darwin's book and the Bible and puts them in his briefcase to co-exist together.
The mood of the play is serious, for it takes place largely in a courtroom and concerns a serious theme; but it is also filled with irony. In fact, the ironic voices of Drummond and Hornbeck are high points of the play as they criticize the specious thinking and the verbal displays of people like the Reverend Brown and Brady. The irony of the play is occasionally drowned out, however, by the moral earnestness of Drummond, who tries to express his own religion; although it is a different kind of religion from Brady and the conservatives of the town, it is a religion nonetheless. Drummond believes fervently in the rights of people to think for themselves and believes there must be a place in the world for both the Bible and Darwin.