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Agnostic. Vicious. Godless. Agent of darkness. Creature of the Devil. The Devil himself. These are all ways that the townspeople characterize Henry Drummond, Bert's defense lawyer, before they even meet him. Kind of sounds like the odds are stacked against him, are we right?
See, Drummond is a man who prides himself on his rationality, and in many people's view, this staunch rationalism poses a real threat to the American people's God-fearin' traditions.
Drummond is Brady's foil in this play; as ex-BFFs who sound like ex-lovers when they squabble, these two high-powered lawyers are the main combatants in the Battle Royale that lies at the center of Inherit the Wind.
Brady recognizes the magnitude of his opponent immediately:
If the enemy sends its Goliath into battle, it magnifies our cause. Henry Drummond has stalked the courtrooms of this land for forty years. When he fights, headlines follow. (With growing fervor) The whole world will be watching our victory over Drummond. (Dramatically) If St. George had slain a dragonfly, who would remember him. (I, I, 627-32)
Now, Drummond's skills are widely respected. But his morals are not. Because he is famous for taking on cases that most lawyers wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, he has a reputation as being, well, the devil.
As the play goes on, we discover that Drummond the Devil is actually a thoughtful and judicious character. He explains to Bert his rationale for taking on hard cases this way:
Sometimes I think the law is like a horse race. Sometimes it seems to me I ride like fury, just to end up back where I started. Might as well be on a merry-go-round, or a rocking horse…or… (He half-closes his eyes. His voice is far away, his lips barely move) Golden Dancer….
CATES. What did you say?
DRUMMOND. That was the name of my first long shot. Golden Dancer. She was in the
big side window of the general store in Wakeman, Ohio. [. . .] But she was a week's wages for my father. [. . .] But—let's see, it wasn't Christmas; must've been my birthday—I woke up in the morning and there was Golden Dancer at the foot of my bed! [. . .] I jumped into the saddle and started to rock— (Almost a whisper) And it broke! [. . .] All shine, and no substance! (Turning to CATES) Bert, whenever you see something bright, shining, perfect-seeming—all gold, with purple spots—look behind the paint! And if it's a lie—show it up for what it really is! (III, 67-99)
In case you didn't get the point of our epically long excerpt in the last section, Drummond is basically a stand-in for moral justice in this book. He's the most dedicated truth-seeker of truth-seekers, the guy who sees through all the smoke and mirrors of performative, ego-driven lawyers like Brady.
He's basically the Horatio Caine of Inherit the Wind.
The above passage also gives Drummond a lot more depth; we see that he came from somewhere, that he was a child once. The idea that he always ends up "back where [he] started" shows us that Drummond isn't participating in this to get ahead or get fame, like Brady. And we also learn that his own personal disappointment is behind his professional drive.
In that way, Drummond reveals that he's actually got something in common with Brady. Yes, he's the more intellectually scrutinizing character of the two. But you might say that both Brady and Drummond are flawed in that they bring their own beliefs to bear on their work.
One big difference between the two: Drummond isn't afraid to show that he cares for Brady. Even though he brings him to tears on the witness stand, when Brady finally kicks the bucket, he refuses to laugh at his old friend.
When Hornbeck accuses Drummond of being weak for showing some compassion, Drummond lets him have it:
You smart-aleck! You have no more right to spit on his religion than you have a right to spit on my religion! Or my lack of it! (III, 613-16)
Drummond's final action in the play—holding both the Bible and Darwin's The Origin of Species in his hands like he's balancing them on the scales of justice, then putting them both into his briefcase—symbolizes his logical attitude.
Sadly, this attitude basically leaves him with no friends… since everyone else (on both sides) is fairly extremist. We still care for you, buddy. And so does your crush Rachel. So that's something, right?