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Inherit the Wind | Study Guide

Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

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Inherit the Wind | Act 1, Scene 2 | Summary



This scene opens as Matthew Harrison Brady and Henry Drummond attempt to fill the last two open slots on the jury. The courtroom is packed with spectators, despite the fact that the trial itself has not yet started. The shapes of buildings are visible in the background, again emphasizing that Hillsboro itself is on trial.

It is clear that Brady and Drummond have already been battling each other to ensure that each potential juror will not favor the other side. The first man to be questioned, Mr. Bannister, goes to church on Sunday, which satisfies Brady. But because he cannot read, Drummond realizes the man cannot be overly familiar with the Bible and accepts him as well. The next potential juror, Jesse Dunlap, fervently states he believes in the "Holy Word of God. And ... in Matthew Harrison Brady." Drummond immediately rejects him, angering Brady, who asks if Drummond will reject anyone who believes in the Bible. Drummond replies that he will but Brady is free to reject any evolutionist he may find. They finally agree on George Sillers, a hardworking man who has no opinion about Bertram Cates, is only casually religious (although Brady had not realized this and reacts nervously when Drummond uncovers that fact), and has no real knowledge of Darwin.

In addition to choosing a jury, Brady is also subtly working on the spectators in the courtroom. He is by turns affable, pious, and folksy, but he is always playing to his base and assuming the role of "man of the people." Drummond, on the other hand, doesn't seem to care if he amuses or offends the people in the court, although he does purposely set Brady up for embarrassment by wearing a pair of purple suspenders. Brady criticizes them as "showing us the latest fashion in the great metropolitan city of Chicago," only to find out that Drummond bought them in Brady's own hometown of Weeping Water, Nebraska. Drummond is more focused on the case, quick to challenge anything that might bias the jury, from the use of Brady's honorary title of "Colonel," to Brady's characterization of Bertram Cates as a "Godless teacher," to a formal announcement by the judge concerning a prayer meeting being held that night. Drummond also reacts to Brady's statement that "the state of mind of the members of the jury conforms to the laws and patterns of society" by asking Brady if he wants to run jurors "through a meat-grinder, so they all come out the same." When Brady responds that he has seen how Drummond can twist a jury, making them question their own beliefs and assumptions, Drummond responds that his aim is to prevent the "clock-stoppers"—those who reject new ideas and live in the past—from "dumping a load of medieval nonsense into the United States Constitution."

Once the selection process is over, the townspeople surge over to Brady, clamoring for his attention and following him out the door while pointedly ignoring Drummond. Cates, Drummond, and Rachel Brown remain in the courtroom along with Meeker, the patient bailiff. Rachel again pleads with Cates to admit that he did wrong, and Cates himself admits he never expected to experience such anger and ostracism from people he thought were his friends. Hearing this, Drummond and Rachel each begin to press their case. Rachel again pushes for Cates to apologize, saying she cares for him and his reputation. Drummond quietly counters that he cares about Cates as well, but also cares about what the young man himself thinks and believes. He asks Rachel if she thinks she can "buy back his respectability by making him a coward." Drummond then says, with obvious compassion, that he understands the alienation and loneliness Cates is feeling. He offers to call the whole thing off ... if Cates is willing to find himself guilty before any jury does. After some thought Cates says he's not going to quit, and that he can get through anything if Rachel sticks with him.

At that, Rachel reveals that Brady is going to have her testify against Cates. For the first time, Cates seems panicked. He tells Rachel that if she reveals the musings of his mind and heart, Brady will twist them and make them sound like answers, not questions. And then the jury, he says, will "crucify me." At that point Meeker interrupts as he is forced to take Cates back to his cell. Left alone with Rachel, Drummond reassures her that Brady is not bigger than the law and they shouldn't fear him. That's when Rachel admits that it's her father she fears, and asks Drummond if Cates is indeed wicked. Drummond responds with absolute conviction, telling her Bertram Cates is a good man, perhaps a great one. But he also tells Rachel it "takes strength for a woman to love such a man."


Scene 2 provides greater insight into the characters of both Brady and Drummond, and it clearly sets them up as foils to each other. There is less to be discovered about Brady than about Drummond, however. Everything that Brady is seems to have already been revealed in Scene 1. As Scene 2 opens, the stage directions—which continue to provide not only key information but also commentary—note that Brady "sits grandly at [a] table, fanning himself with benign self-assurance." He is where he wants to be: at the center of a newsworthy issue he believes will enhance his cult of personality. He is the focus of the townspeople's adoration, and during the proceedings he continues to play to them: grandstanding, using grandiose language as he "basks in the warmth of his popularity." It is clear that his most pressing reason to be in Hillsboro is not to champion the state law but to feel that warmth, which has been eluding him in recent years.

Drummond, on the other hand, seems to have little interest in the spectators. He is, above all, a lawyer, focused on the trial and the proceedings. Many of his comments are borderline insulting, and he makes no effort to hide his anger or frustration when the situation warrants either. Even his more humorous remarks seem to be uttered for his own amusement rather than to ingratiate himself with others. Still, it is clear he is not entirely oblivious to his effect on the townspeople or his opponent. The purple suspenders were a carefully planned strategy to unsettle Brady, and the laughter Drummond receives when he reveals where they're from both embarrasses and irritates Brady. As the stage directions say, "This is [Brady's] show, and he wants all the laughs." Drummond also manages to ridicule Brady's honorary title of colonel when he is able to force the mayor to grant him the similar title of "temporary Honorary Colonel" to level the playing field.

The two men also are very different in terms of what they are fighting for. Brady appears to be mouthing the words and beliefs of his fan base, seeking a win that will revive his stature. If he has a higher purpose, it is that of maintaining the status quo. He, along with his followers, believes that laws and beliefs should remain as they are, and he does not see the need to examine them to determine if they are still valid. Drummond, though, has taken on the case because through it he can force a jury to see the larger issue they are dealing with: the importance of the individual and in that individual's right to think. This level of thought is beyond Brady's grasp. He regards Drummond's effort as tricking the jury into arriving at a "judgment by confusion."

The scene between Drummond, Cates, and Rachel reveals yet another side of Drummond, as he shows himself capable of being both empathetic and compassionate. He is kind to Rachel, despite the damage she can do to his case, and gently attempts to help guide her out of the maze of confusion she finds herself in. And as Cates describes his isolation, it is clear that Drummond has experienced the same ostracism, or worse, and can understand what Cates is going through. But he seems also to have learned that nothing is worth giving up one's principles for, and it is this argument he uses to subtly convince Cates to continue his case.

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