Summary and Analysis
Act I: Scene 2
Spectators crowd the hot courtroom several days later as Brady and Drummond choose the last two jurors for Cates' trial. Throughout the questioning, friction between Brady and Drummond becomes apparent as they haggle about every issue. Their bickering makes clear that this trial is not just about Cates' guilt or innocence but about censorship versus freedom of thought.
After the judge adjourns the trial for the day, Rachel Brown goes to Drummond and insists that he call off the trial. Cates reveals that he is scared but determined to stand his ground. Drummond admits that he cares about what Cates' thinks and is empathetic. Rachel feels confused, guilty, and upset. She tells Drummond and Cates that she talked to Brady about conversations she had had with Cates and will have to testify against him.
Lawrence and Lee's purpose for this scene is to delineate each side of the conflict. With stage directions that state the situation is "as if Hillsboro itself is on trial," the playwrights suggest that the narrow-minded thinking that promotes censorship — thinking that is prevalent in Hillsboro — is on trial.
The prospective jurors that Drummond and Brady question are males who are not particularly well educated. Through the jury-selection process, the two attorneys challenge each other, revealing one another's strengths and weaknesses. Because Drummond is a foil for Brady, the men's differences are magnified whenever they are in each other's presence. Brady is self-assured and smug because he has the spectators on his side. Drummond, although alone in his fight to defend Cates, never wavers from his mission to defend academic freedom.
Lawrence and Lee portray Drummond as a sophisticated city dweller from the North, a sharp contrast to Brady and the simple townspeople living in the rural South. For example, Drummond exhibits a sense of humor about his purple suspenders, which incurs Brady's sarcasm about Drummond wearing the "latest fashion." Brady's self-importance is evident when the issue of his title as Honorary Colonel in the State Militia arises, and the audience sees that Brady is impressed with the title. Drummond, on the other hand, thinks the title is ridiculous and is mildly entertained when the mayor of Hillsboro gives him a temporary title of Honorary Colonel in the State Militia.
Drummond's character is revealed, as well as Lawrence and Lee's viewpoint, when he angrily responds to Brady's comment about wanting, " . . . the state of mind of the members of the jury [to] conform[s] to the laws and patterns of society." Drummond is passionate about " . . . prevent[ing] the clock-stoppers from dumping a load of medieval nonsense into the United States Constitution." The tension mounts as Drummond slaps his hand on the table vowing to, " . . . stop @'em somewhere."
Drummond believes that censorship halts progress and that a society in which limitations are placed on an individual's right to think is dangerous. In this passage, Drummond is voicing Lawrence and Lee's concern about censorship. Here, the playwrights are not commenting only on the Butler Law, but also on the censorship that occurred during the McCarthy era. McCarthyism forced people to conform to the "acceptable" ideology of capitalism and to abandon any connections to Communism or risk losing their jobs and possibly facing trial and imprisonment.
By defending Cates and freedom of thought, Drummond is shaking Hillsboro's very foundation. In response, the town attempts to hold on to its traditional fundamentalist beliefs. They erect a banner over the courtroom door that proclaims, "Read Your Bible," and, as court is adjourned for the day, the judge announces a prayer meeting to be held on the courthouse lawn. Drummond objects to the banner, as well as the "commercial announcement" of the prayer meeting, but the judge rules that he is out of order.
At the end of the day, Brady leaves the courtroom like "a shepherd leading his flock." Because his self-worth is based on the attention he receives from his followers, he thrives on being popular. In contrast, Drummond quietly packs his briefcase with Cates still at his side. When Rachel begs Drummond to call off the trial, he explains that challenging "an old wives' tale," a traditional belief, is a bigger crime than a murder because it shakes people up and causes them to think and make changes. Here, the playwrights emphasize the theme of the play — the right of every individual to think freely and to explore what is unknown and unfamiliar. Drummond's character is revealed in a monologue as he empathizes with Cates' alienation and loneliness. Drummond speaks as though he had a similar experience. In fact, Lawrence and Lee wrote a prequel to Inherit the Wind entitled The Angels Weep, in which Drummond is in a courtroom facing a judge as a defendant because of an unjust accusation.
In this scene, Lawrence and Lee use allusions to emphasize the character's dilemmas and the atmosphere of the town. When Cates says he never thought the trial would be "like Barnum and Bailey coming to town," he is alluding to the Barnum and Bailey Circus — The Greatest Show on Earth. The purpose of the allusion is to describe the circus-like atmosphere the townspeople have created. Yet, even though the atmosphere of Hillsboro appears to be festive, the underlying mood is sinister because the townspeople are defending their long-held fundamentalist beliefs against evolutionary theory. Another allusion occurs when Rachel reveals that she will be asked to testify against Cates. Reacting in disbelief and fear, he exclaims, " . . . they'll crucify me!" — words immediately conjuring up the image of the crucifixion of Jesus, a man who was betrayed by one of his disciples.
At the end of Scene 2, when Drummond reassures Rachel that Cates is not wicked and shows that he clearly supports Cates and respects his willingness to stand up for academic freedom, Lawrence and Lee illustrate that Drummond is not a devil, but a kind, compassionate, and caring person.
venireman a member of a group of people from among whom a jury or juries will be selected.
clock-stoppers narrow-minded thinkers.
cold feet fright.
pariah any person despised or rejected by others; an outcast.
grip a small bag or satchel for holding clothes, etc. in traveling .