Based on the infamous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized account of a trial staged to bring attention to the illegality teaching evolution in a public school. Learn more with our engaging activities and lesson plan ideas!
Bert Cates, a schoolteacher, is on trial for teaching the theory of evolution from Darwin’s Origin of Species. Presidential candidate Matthew Harrison Brady is coming to the small town of Hillsboro to prosecute Bert. Henry Drummond, a hot-shot lawyer from Chicago, will represent Bert.
Bert is nervous about going to trial, and his girlfriend Rachel, the daughter of the town’s reverend, is trying to convince him to back out of going through with the trial. The town itself seems to be poising itself against Bert and preparing for the triumphant show of Brady. The very fabric of the town, its religious beliefs, are being challenged, and the whole world is watching.
Brady and Drummond face off in the courtroom, both men were once close, but are now very far apart. The Reverend and Mayor want to make sure they look as God-fearing as possible. The evidence against Bert is mounting, with Rachel being forced to deliver the most damning evidence of all: a private joke, taken out of context.
The Judge refuses to allow any of Drummond’s expert witnesses to testify about what the theory of evolution entails, so Drummond calls Brady to the stand. He gets Brady to admit that since the sun wasn’t created until the fourth day in the Bible, the first day could have equaled 10 million years. He then makes a fool out of Brady by getting him to say that God speaks to him.
Bert is found guilty, but the Judge only gives him a fine, which Drummond will appeal. Brady tries to make a speech to the townspeople who have abandoned him, and ends up collapsing and dying. Bert and Rachel leave town on the afternoon train.
IN GOD WE TRUST
Hornbeck offends Drummond by making a smarmy comment about Brady’s death. Drummond reveals that he, too, is actually very religious, and that he respected Brady. He picks up Darwin’s book and the Bible and puts them together in his briefcase, symbolizing that the two juxtaposing ideas might be able to coexist after all.
IN GOD WE TRUST
ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Image Attributions:evolution (https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulk/2061830697/) - Paul Keller - License: Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)