Summary and Analysis
Act II: Scene 1
The same evening, the townspeople congregate on the courthouse lawn for Reverend Brown's prayer meeting. All the major characters are present, except for Cates. Brady sits on the wooden platform. Drummond and Hornbeck are at the edge of the crowd.
When Brown becomes overzealous as he prays and asks that Cates, as well as anyone who supports him (including his daughter, Rachel), be destroyed and damned, Brady interrupts him and ends the payer meeting. Left standing alone with Drummond, Brady questions him about their relationship, once cordial, and wonders why Drummond has " . . . moved so far away from me." Drummond tells Brady that perhaps he, Brady, is the one who has moved away " . . . by standing still."
Whereas at the end Act I Lawrence and Lee depict the evolutionists (primarily Drummond), in this first scene of Act II, they depict the people on the opposing side of the conflict — the fundamentalists. As the scene opens, Drummond, who in the last scene is shown to be caring and compassionate, is once again referred to as "the Devil" by workmen who decide to leave up the "Read your Bible" banner. The fundamentalist Brady casts Drummond as the enemy of the faithful when he concludes a press conference with reporters and proclaims that he is "fighting the fight of the Faithful throughout the world," while Drummond is "challenging the faith of millions."
As the townspeople congregate for the prayer meeting, the stage directions point out that "the prayer meeting is motion picture, radio, and tent-show to these people," and Reverend Brown is their movie star. Because the prayer meetings are obviously the only form of entertainment for the townspeople, attendance is high. Lawrence and Lee hint at the possibility that some of the townspeople may not truly be fundamentalists, foreshadowing a lack of support and ultimate devastation for Brady.
Brown bases his sermon on the creation story in the Bible. Lawrence and Lee use the creation story and Brown's sermon to both remind the audience of the creation story as it is told in the Bible and to illustrate how narrow-minded these anti-evolutionists are. In this scene, the playwrights mock not only the fundamentalists but also the people who participated in McCarthyism and anyone who favors censorship.
Lawrence and Lee portray Brown as an uncaring person who shows no compassion for another human being (Cates) or his own child (Rachel). When Brown prays fervently for Cates' destruction and Rachel cries out to stop him only to be condemned by him, too, Brady who is, above almost everything else, ambitious, becomes nervous. The people in the congregation are his supporters. Uncomfortable with the direction the sermon has taken and afraid that he will lose the people's support, Brady steps up to Brown and puts a halt to the prayer meeting. In so doing, he quotes from the Book of Proverbs, "he that troubleth his own house . . . shall inherit the wind," implying that those who cause problems get nothing in return. The prayer meeting comes to an end as Brady talks about forgiveness. Rachel leaves the prayer meeting in disbelief. Her internal struggle represents the struggle faced by anyone who becomes enlightened and is awakened to new knowledge. Rachel's love for Cates and her father's condemnation of her make her question what she has long believed to be true.
The playwrights also use this scene to clarify the relationship between Brady and Drummond. At one time, the two men were "on the same side of the fence"; they shared " . . . a mutuality of understanding and admiration." At the conclusion of Brown's prayer meeting, Brady questions Drummond about the distance that has come between them, and Drummond responds that "Perhaps it is you [Brady] who have moved away — by standing still."
same side of the fence having the same beliefs.
dispatches news stories sent to a newspaper or broadcaster, as by a correspondent.
fervent having or showing great warmth of feeling; intensely devoted or earnest; ardent.
Milton Sills (1882-1930), a handsome silent film star well known for his leading roles in The Spoilers, The Sea Hawk, and Burning Daylight.
Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939), a handsome silent film star, famous for his roles in The Mark of Zorro, The Three Musketeers, and Robin Hood.
milking the expectant pause taking advantage of a pause to prolong anticipation.
whipping'em up getting the crowd excited.
whip-crack quickly; forcefully; loud.
zeal intense enthusiasm, as in working for a cause; ardent endeavor or devotion; ardor; fervor.