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Themes

Besides the obvious facts—the play is based on a real-life court case, and the climax is the verdict—Inherit the Wind contains some deeper critiques of the American justice system. In fact, we think it's the justice system itself that's really put on trial in this play, as the spectator is shown the unfairness of a system that would jail a person for speaking "the truth" (in this case, science). The trial proceedings also bring out the worst in both Brady, the hopelessly egocentric prosecuting attorney, and Drummond, an otherwise compassionate lawyer who simply must beat Brady. And once all is said and done, Bert's pronounced guilty, but his itty bitty fine leaves both sides feeling like they've kind of won, but kind of lost. It's all shades of grey in this play.

Questions About Justice and Judgment

  1. Do you think that justice is served in the play? Why or why not?
  2. What does the character of the Judge reveal about the justice system?
  3. How would you judge Bertram Cates, if you were the Judge?
  4. What do you think of Drummond and Brady—do they seem like realistic trial lawyers to you?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Justice is not served in Inherit the Wind, because the Mayor influences the Judge, and both Drummond and Brady have personal motivations for their actions in the courtroom.

Justice is served in Inherit the Wind because the ever-selfish Brady dies at the end.

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