Study Guide

Matthew Harrison Brady in Inherit the Wind

By Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Matthew Harrison Brady

Big Man in Hillsboro (BMIH)

Matthew (or, as Mrs. Brady calls him, Matt) is a loud-talking, big-eating, three-time presidential candidate. And no-time president. In this story, though, he's best known for being the prosecuting lawyer in Bertram Cate's case. At least his hot dog eating contest potential gets its due attention in the play as well.

One great way of describing this dude: he's larger than life. And he has captured the hearts of all of the religious folk in the town of Hillsboro. A dynamic orator and a generally zealous man, he's pretty much rallied the entire town against poor Bert.

So, while Brady seems to be a very principled man, we think the play is also full of signs that suggest what really gets him going is public adoration. Like when he says:

The Reverend at my left, the Mayor at my right. (Stiffly, they face the camera) We must look grave, gentlemen, but not too serious. Hopeful, I think is the word. we must look hopeful. (BRADY assumes the familiar oratorical pose. The camera clicks.) (I, I, 467-72)

And photo ops aren't the only outlet for Brady's crowd-pleasing antics. He takes any chance he can get to bend the masses' ears. Clearly, the man's an expert at PR; he knows which facial expression he should use for which photograph, all to keep the paparazzi on his tail.

Brady's camera-lovin' ways give us the idea that his motives aren't entirely pure… Maybe this whole play is based on one guy's personal insecurities, rather than the pursuit of the truth. Yeah, that free-thought issue is pretty important, but would Bert's trial have ever made headlines if Brady (and his arch-nemesis of a defense lawyer, Drummond) weren't such show offs?

We think Brady's character, in all his egocentric glory, is a pretty big criticism of the justice system. The playwrights use Brady to make the point that the justice system is not objective; often, decisions lie more in the hands of the media than they do in the law books.

Brady the Cry Baby

Proving that the dude is totally insecure, Brady loses it whenever people aren't paying attention to him. So, the very thing that Brady depends on for his sense of self-worth can also act as his kryptonite. When Drummond gets Brady on the stand, Drummond makes a fool of him by showing that, despite his intense religiosity, even he doesn't take the Bible totally literally.

Brady can barely stand this public humiliation. He starts acting like a little baby and calling his wife "Mother" and whatnot. Check out this exchange between the husband and wife:

(BRADY looks about to see if everyone has left the courtroom, before he speaks.)

BRADY. Mother. They're laughing at me, Mother!

MRS. BRADY. (Unconvincingly) No, Matt. No, they're not!

BRADY. I can't stand it when they laugh at me!

(MRS. BRADY steps up onto the raised level of the witness chair. She stands beside and
behind her husband, putting her arms around the massive shoulders and cradling his
head against her breast.)

MRS. BRADY. (Soothing) It's all right, baby. It's all right. (MRS. BRADY sways gently
back and forth, as if rocking her husband to sleep) Baby… Baby…! (II, II, 808-23)

Um. We'd suggest that we're probably not supposed to take Brady super seriously if this is how he's portrayed in a moment of crisis. Plus, Brady's helplessness in this scene foreshadows the play's most dramatic moment: when Brady bites the dust mid-speech.

Brady wins his case against Bert, yet he's totally defeated by the experience. Since he wasn't able to make an example of Bert, and since no one wants to listen to his long prepared speech, he topples like a rotten tree.

The image of Brady falling down is one of the cool things that theatre can do that other genres can't: show us what Brady's really like, rather than simply saying it. The wordless fall of the giant is a symbol for how the little guys in the play can prevail if they just stay after their goal.

Think David and Goliath, with Brady as our Goliath and Bert as our David.

Brady the Bitter Old Man

Brady's last words, the creepy chanting of what would have been his inauguration speech if he had ever won the presidency, show the deep frustration that marks his character. It's like Drummond says:

How quickly they can turn. And how painful it can be when you don't expect it. (He turns) I wonder how it feels to be Almost-President three times—with a skull full of undelivered inauguration speeches. (III, 475-79)

The fact that Brady ran so many times for presidency, despite repeatedly losing the race, shows how important personal fame was to him. Brady would rather run and lose than let anyone else have a chance at winning. That need for adoration, as well as the anger that results from his unrealized life dreams, are what define Brady's character.

If you think about it, these two traits probably motivate most of his actions in the play. Sure, he cares about evolution and religious ideals. But mostly, he cares about himself.

So this self-centered, attention-loving side of Brady is really important for understanding the play's critique of the criminal justice system. Rather than seeking truth, as any good lawyer should, Brady is all about getting his picture plastered on another newsstand. Lame, dude. Real lame.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...