Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Cautionary, Balanced, and Serious
Inherit the Wind takes itself pretty seriously, and wants everyone else to take it seriously, too. Its tone carries some finger-wagging hues, as though this play is trying to show us that we shouldn't be too sure of ourselves, or we'll turn into Brady.
The stage directions after Bert's sentence is announced read:
(The mighty Evolution Law explodes with the pale puff of a wet firecracker. There is a murmur of surprise through the courtroom. BRADY is indignant. He rises, incredulous.) (III, 287-89)
This sort of heavy-handedness in the play's direction gives us a real sense of the playwrights' desire to teach the audience something. It's a moralistic play. However, Lawrence and Lee don't sink to Hornbeck's level. They try to treat everyone fairly.
The townspeople are described as "colorful small-town citizens, but not caricatured rubes." Besides the coolness of the word 'rube' (anyone up for reviving it?), the stage directions are careful to be balanced about the different players in this grand game.