Hillsboro is usually a small, quiet, Southern town, but not anymore. People from all over are flocking to see the trial of Bertram Cates. Cates is a school teacher who is being prosecuted for teaching Darwin's Theory of Evolution to his students because, despite scientific proof, it is against the law. For the prosecution, the town brings in none other than the former presidential candidate, Matthew Brady. The town is filled with excitement as it prepares for Brady's arrival, and they hold a celebration when he arrives. Brady is ready to speak out for the community and defend the Bible. In his first speech to the town, he says, “My friends of Hillsboro, you know why I have come here. Not merely to prosecute a lawbreaker, an arrogant youth who has spoken out against the Revealed Word, but to defend that which is most precious in the hearts of all of us: the Living Truth of the Scriptures!” (19). It is clear what Brady stands for, but he is not the only one ready to stir up the town. Cates writes to the Baltimore Herald for some help, and the infamous Henry Drummond is sent to be his attorney. The newspaper also sends the outspoken reporter E.K. Hornbeck, whose cynical view creates even more chaos in the town.
After everyone arrives and the jury is selected, the trial begins. Everything is against Cates' favor, but Drummond is determined to prove that he did nothing wrong. Ironically enough, Cates and the Reverend's daughter, Rachel, are school teachers together and have been involved with each other for quite some time. She begs Cates to say that he was wrong so that this can all be over, but he refuses and along with Drummond, stands up for what he believes in.
The trial continues, and there are many witnesses including one of Cates' students that says Betram told them that men descended from monkeys and mentioned nothing about the Bible or God creating the Earth and its organisms. Brady also calls Rachel to the stand, and she explains why Cates stopped going to church. Further trying to prove evolution wrong, Brady brings in scientists to share their ideas. But the turning point of the trial is when Drummond calls Brady to the stand because he is an “expert” on the Bible. Drummond weaves his way into the mind of Brady. Brady contradicts himself, while proving that everyone should be free to think what they want. The Bible is not the law of the land and should not be the basis for education in the U.S. Whether or not Cates is found guilty or not, there is a lesson to be learned by everyone in the town from this trial. Since everyone in Hillsboro believes in following the Bible, maybe they should reread the section that gave this play its name. “He that troubleth his own house/ Shall inherit the wind” (Proverbs 11:29)
1) The characters in the book overlook scientific research that has been proven and blindly follow the Bible without thinking at all for themselves. Are there any other issues, besides evolution, that people over look due to religious beliefs even though there are facts that they are real?
2) This book is set in the 1920's, but was published in the 1950's during the time of the Red Scare and McCarthyism. Why do you think the authors felt this was a good time to publish this work? Are the ideas and lessons in the play still relevant to society today?