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Inherit the Wind

Inherit the Wind


by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

Analysis: Writing Style

Folksy, Realistic, Varied

For the most part, the lines in Inherit the Wind are full of down-home goodness. The play tries to capture the way that real people talk, and also to emphasize the small town atmosphere. Lines like "Fitt'n fer a king" (I, I, 203) and "Where we gonna sleep all them people?" (I, I, 215-16) show the folksy people of Hillsboro to be as realistic as those you might meet in any small town.

However, the writers employ some characters whose style varies greatly from everyone else's. Hornbeck, for example, sounds almost like a beat poet with his crazy rhythm and joking insults:

I am a newspaperman, bearing news.

When this sovereign state determined to indict

The sovereign mind of a less-than-sovereign schoolteacher,

My editors decided there was more than a headline here. (I, I, 564-67)

Notice the line breaks and the capital letters at the beginning of Hornbeck's sentences, as if he's speaking in poems; none of the other characters talk like that, that's for sure.

Brady, too, is a pretty big windbag. He gives some learned speeches that most of the townspeople wouldn't be capable of. In fact, his smarty-pants style comes up against Reverend Brown's thundering damnation style:

BROWN. Lord, we call down the same curse on those who ask grace for this sinner—though they be blood of my blood, and flesh of my flesh!

BRADY (Rising, grasping BROWN'S arm). Reverend Brown, I know that it is the great zeal of your faith which makes you utter this prayer! But it is possible to be overzealous, to destroy that which you hope to save—so that nothing is left but emptiness. (I, I, 168-75)

This passage shows off how much the different characters' styles vary, although the playwrights try to make all of them realistic. That's their goal, it seems; to portray the variation in real people's speech. Just like they want to portray the variation in real people's beliefs.

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