Inherit the Wind: Novel Summary: Act III
Summary: The day after Brady and Drummond's dramatic showdown in the courtroom, the town is waiting for word of the verdict. In the virtually empty courthouse, Hornbeck cracks jokes about how he will miss the circus of the trial. Cates, for his part, is visibly nervous. He fears the jury will send him to jail. Drummond admits that, while he does not know what verdict the jury will deliver, he feels he has a "smell" of the way they're thinking. When Cates tells Drummond that this case has been a "long shot," Drummond tells him the story of his first "long shot," a rocking horse named Golden Dancer that Drummond wanted when he was seven years old. One birthday, he received Golden Dancer as a gift. The first time he rode the horse, he broke it. Golden Dancer was "[a]ll shine, and no substance!"
A radio broadcaster enters the courthouse, preparing to broadcast the verdict live across the nation. Brady notes the presence of the radio microphone with pleasure, expecting that he will be able to deliver a grand sermon to the country. The jury files into the courtroom and delivers its verdict to the Judge, who announces it: "The jury's decision is unanimous. Bertram Cates is found guilty as charged!" Before the Judge passes sentence, Drummond reminds him that Cates is entitled to make a statement. Cates declares he feels he has been convicted of breaking an unjust law. This plainspoken defense, which even elicits a small "crack of applause," seems to deflate Brady in his victory. It also, quite possibly, motivates the Judge to assess a minor fine of one hundred dollars as Cates' punishment. As the stage directions put it: "The mighty Evolution Law explodes with the pale puff of a wet firecracker."
Brady vehemently objects to the paltry nature of the fee, arguing that the court must "make an example" of this "sinner," but Drummond objects, stating that he and his client will appeal the fine and have no intention of paying it. In a half-hearted answer to Brady's concerns, the Judge sets a bond of five hundred dollars, and then-at Drummond's prompting-adjourns the court. Defiantly, Brady begins to read a prepared statement to the court and the listening nation, but spectators gradually leave, to buy Eskimo Pies and generally return to the business of their lives; after a little time, the radio man removes the microphone, while Brady is in mid-speech. Falling silent, Brady suffers an attack of some kind. As he is carried from the courtroom, he can be heard reciting the inaugural address he has several times been denied the chance to deliver. Hornbeck reacts to this turn of events with no concern for Brady as a person: he opines, "Show me a shouter, / And I'll show you an also-ran. A might-have-been, / An almost-was."
Cates, confused, asks Drummond if he won or lost. Drummond assures him that, despite the fines levied against him, he has won in the eyes of millions of people: "They'll read in their papers tonight that you smashed a bad law. You made it a joke!... [And] you've helped the next fella. Tomorrow it'll be something else-and another fella will have to stand up. And you've helped give him the guts to do it!" Hornbeck pays Cates' bail, on behalf of his newspaper in Baltimore, and is reunited and reconciled with Rachel, who expresses her newfound resolution to think through the issues raised in the trial for her.
The Judge delivers the news that Brady has died. Hornbeck cynically refers to Brady as "A Barnum-bunkum Bible-beating bastard!" This comment proves too much for Drummond, who wheels on Hornbeck with anger: "You have no right to spit on his religion than you have a right to spit on my religion! Or my lack of it!" He believes Brady possessed "much greatness." Still, he acknowledges Brady's fatal flaw by quoting Proverbs 11:29 as Brady's obituary: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart." As he leaves the courthouse, Drummond, in a symbolic bit of stage business, "weighs" Darwin's book and the Bible in his hands; then he "slaps the two books together and jams them in his brief case, side by side." The curtain falls.
Analysis: Lawrence and Lee's stage directions again convey much of the real truth of this scene: when Cates speaks out against the state's law, Brady is rendered a much less imposing force-"He's won the case. The prize is his, but he can't reach the candy." Or, a few moments earlier, these stage directions: "It is a spiteful, bitter victory for him, not a conquest with a cavalcade of angels." These stage directions, and the ensuing action, in which Brady cannot command a hearing, illustrates how, even though he has won the "famous Hillsboro Monkey Trial case," he has lost the allegiance of the age. The winds of public opinion have started and will continue to shift against him and the unthinking, literal-minded approach to faith that he advocates.
The story Drummond tells about Golden Dancer is not necessarily meant to imply that the spiritual truths of that faith are a lie-although some critics of the play may take that meaning away from it-but rather that the self-assured, smug, sanctified piety of people like Brady and-perhaps even to a greater degree-the general population of places like Hillsboro is "all shine, and no substance." The story captures Drummond's sense of purpose: to expose falsehood and seek out truth, no matter where that search leads. On the other hand, audiences may well ask if, for all their apparent condemnation of Hornbeck through Drummond's voice, Lawrence and Lee are not just as guilty of treating Brady dismissively.
In the final analysis, however, it is perhaps not the playwrights' task to go beyond what they have done: they have, through Drummond, exposed the dangers of uncritical acceptance of another's thoughts and beliefs. Such blind loyalty to what has gone before prevents individuals, and the human race as a whole, from seeing what lies ahead. Drummond would no doubt agree with the famous, "90-second commencement speech" delivered on several occasions by Theodor Geisel, better known as "Dr. Seuss":
My uncle ordered popovers
from the restaurant's bill of fare.
And, when they were served,
he regarded them
with a penetrating stare.
Then he spoke great Words of Wisdom
as he sat there on that chair:
"To eat these things,"
said my uncle,
"you must exercise great care.
You may swallow down what's solid.
you must spit out the air!"
as you partake of the world's bill of fare,
that's darned good advice to follow.
Do a lot of spitting out the hot air.
And be careful what you swallow.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright 2004, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition Copyright 2003, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/