Study Guide

Inherit the Wind Plot Analysis

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Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation)

Jailhouse Rock

Bert Cates gets thrown in the slammer for teaching evolution in the public school. His friend-who's-a-girl, Rachel, asks him to just say it was a joke so he can get out of the clink. The town gets ready for a show: the impending trial of Bert Cates. The stage is set for the huge conflict that's about to roll into town like Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us

The two lawyers, a couple of big shots from out of town, show up on the scene. One of them, Matthew Harrison Brady, used to run for president. Run, but not win, to be clear; he's like a professional presidential candidate.

His opponent, Henry Drummond, is a famous agnostic who defends evildoers. At least that's what the more conservative townspeople think. The catch is that Drummond and Brady used to be friends. Who doesn't love a tale of two BFFs-turned-arch-nemeses?

Brady's reaction to the announcement of Drummond as the defense attorney lets the audience know that this is a major complication in the plot. Bert's trial is not just any old criminal case; it's a clash of titans. A meeting of minds.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

This Whole Court's Out of Order

Drummond has Brady take the witness stand and ends up making a fool out of him while quizzing him on the Bible. The mighty Brady even ends up blubbering like a baby after the people in the courtroom laugh at him. This is a turning point because Brady, who had seemed to hold all the cards, is now at the mercy of Drummond, the former underdog. The case seems to swing, pendulum-like, in Drummond's direction.

Falling Action

The Harder They Fall…

Bert's found guilty, but don't cry for him (slash Argentina) yet. His sentence is a one hundred dollar fine—a mere slap on the wrist. Brady can't stand the fact that, even though he won, his opponent isn't going to rot in jail like a good cautionary tale for other free thinkers.

Brady tries to give a long speech, but no one listens or cares. So he collapses. This is falling action because there's no turning back for Brady now; things are going in Drummond's direction, and his good juju is only gaining momentum.

Resolution (Denouement)

Get the Heck out of Dodge

Brady ends up dying. They say it's from a heart attack, but we're pretty sure it's because he couldn't stand the fact that things didn't turn out his way. It's a severe case of Bad Loser-itis, in our humble opinions.

Anywhos, Drummond feels bad about losing his frenemy. He's kind of a softie, after all. Rachel decides to leave town, and asks Bert to come with her. Drummond dramatically takes both the Bible and Darwin to the train station with him. All the loose ends are tied up (until the appeal, that is).

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