Summary and Analysis
Act II: Scene 2
Two days later, the trial is well underway. Howard, one of Cates' former students, takes the witness stand, followed by Rachel Brown. Because Rachel is obviously upset, Cates tells Drummond not to cross-examine her. When Drummond calls his scientific witnesses to the stand, Brady objects, and the judge determines the testimony of the scientific witnesses irrelevant and excludes them on the grounds that evolution itself is not on trial. Drummond then suggests putting Brady on the witness stand as an expert on the Bible. Brady gladly agrees. In his questioning of Brady, Drummond exposes that Brady, a strict fundamentalist, does not interpret the Bible literally and that he considers himself to be a prophet. The spectators laugh at Brady and leave the courtroom. Brady turns to his wife for comfort and support.
This scene is the climactic scene in the play. While questioning Howard, a student in Cates' class, Brady seizes the opportunity to give a speech defending the Butler Law and the common people against "Evil-utionists," "Bible-haters," and "the teachings of Godless Science." He is confident as the spectators applaud, showing their support.
As Brady's foil, Drummond stands alone. The stage directions state that, " . . . the courtroom seems to resent . . . " his boldness and relaxed demeanor. Drummond is not in awe of Brady and does not hesitate to point out his flaws. Still, his intent is not to destroy Brady but to crush the narrow-minded thinking that Brady represents and promotes. The theme of the play, as well as Lawrence and Lee's viewpoint, is evident as Drummond cross-examines Howard, establishing that everyone "has the right to think.
When the judge says that " . . . the right to think is not on trial . . . ," he is reminding Drummond — and the audience — that Hillsboro is a southern fundamentalist town. When Drummond asks Howard whether, simply because they are not mentioned in the Bible, modern conveniences are "sinful" or "instruments of the Devil," he is establishing that the Bible does not have all the answers. At this point, Brady accuses Drummond of confusing material things with "spiritual realities" and, consequently, confusing Howard. Brady makes clear that he is concerned with what is right. Drummond is explicit when he responds that truth is his main concern. Here, Lawrence and Lee foreshadow the future as Howard "stares at his newfound idol," Drummond.
As Rachel takes the witness stand, the stage directions comment that "Cates watches her with a hopeless expression: Et tu, Brute." Lawrence and Lee allude to the line from Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, in which Brutus betrays his close friend, Caesar. (When Brutus stabs Caesar, Caesar says, "Et tu, Brute?" — meaning, "and you too, Brutus?") When, during questioning, Rachel becomes so distraught that the power to speak eludes her, Cates asks Drummond not to question her, showing compassion, even though she has betrayed him. In contrast, Rachel's father "unsympathetically" walks her off the witness stand. Lawrence and Lee once again portray the fundamentalists as uncaring and cold people and the evolutionists as people who are concerned about the welfare of others.
The classical theme of hubris (excessive pride or self-confidence, which is essential to Greek tragedy) is evident in Brady's character at this point, showing him to be a tragic figure. His arrogance and pride cause him to ignore Davenport's objections to Drummond's unorthodox request and to foolishly take the witness stand in order to " . . . speak out . . . on behalf of the Living Truth of the Holy Scriptures." This act of hubris causes Brady to lose those things he holds most dear.
Drummond uses Brady's testimony to show that God intended man to think. When he is accused of being contemptuous of all that is holy, Drummond angrily responds that he believes that the "individual human mind" is holy and that "an idea is a greater monument than a cathedral." Drummond's monologue reveals his (as well as Lawrence and Lee's) passion about the value of the human mind and the importance of having the freedom to think.
The climax of the play occurs when Brady finally admits that he does not interpret the Bible literally and that he thinks of himself as a prophet. At this point, the spectators' support begins to shift from Brady to Drummond. By the time Brady admits that God talks to him, the spectators are laughing at his responses to Drummond's questions. This laughter is painful to Brady because he realizes that his followers are slipping away.
Desperate, Brady accuses Drummond of trying to "destroy everyone's belief in God." Drummond angrily replies that he is " . . . trying to stop you bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States!" Drummond's reply is an expression of Lawrence and Lee's passion against censorship, not only in relationship to the Butler Law but to McCarthyism as well.
His credibility destroyed, Brady falls apart on the witness stand and, after Drummond excuses him, says to the crowd, "All of you know what I stand for! What I believe! I believe, I believe in the truth of the Book of Genesis!" and then, almost unthinkingly, begins to recite the names of the other Books of the Bible. Brady's former flock crowds around Drummond as he leaves the courtroom; Brady is left on the witness stand with his wife, who comforts him. The tone at the conclusion of this scene is somber.
Revealed Word God's word.
fuss and feathers confusion.
southpaw [Slang] a person who is left-handed; esp., a left-handed baseball pitcher.
goop-eyed in awe.
fatuity stupidity, esp. complacent stupidity; smug foolishness.
hushed babble quiet confused, incoherent talk or vocal sounds.
relish anything that gives pleasure, zest, or enjoyment; attractive quality.
bully for you good for you.
precepts a commandment or direction meant as a rule of action or conduct.
pagan a person who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew; heathen; sometimes applied specifically to non-Christians by Christians.
perdition the loss of the soul; damnation; hell.
gall [Colloquial] rude boldness; impudence; audacity.
whoop up excite.
cocksure sure or self-confident in a stubborn or overbearing way.
cocks an eye looks.
scent in the wind understand what is going on that is not verbalized.
play in your ball park do as you want.
Jonah a minor prophet in the Book of Jonah in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Joshua Moses' successor. Joshua leads the Israelites across the River Jordan and engages in a series of battles to take Palestine. His story is told in the Book of Joshua found in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Houdini Harry Houdini (1874-1926) world famous magician.
Copernicus (1473-1543), a Polish astronomer known for his theory that the earth spins on its axis once daily and revolves around the sun (which is at rest near the center of the universe) annually.
Original Sin In the Old Testament of the Bible, Adam sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Because of Adam's fall, original sin is the state of sin that, according to Christian theology, characterizes all human beings.
sticks turned to snakes Biblical reference. Several times in the Bible, sticks or staffs are turned into snakes.
parting of waters reference to Moses' parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15). When Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt, God told him to raise his staff and stretch his hand over the sea to divide the water.
Rock of Ages Israelite faith considered God, figuratively, to be a rock, symbolizing the permanence and stability of divine protection. The Rock of Ages (1774) is a hymn written by a Calvinist Anglican minister Augustus M. Toplady.
die-hard stubborn or resistant person, esp. an extreme conservative.
glib gag a practical joke or hoax spoken in a smooth, fluent, easy manner, often in a way that is too smooth and easy to be convincing.
trap is about to be sprung someone is about to be caught in someone else's scheme.