Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, is a dramatized version of the famous Scopes "Monkey" Trial of 1925. The plot is that a town passes a law, forbidding teaching anything that goes against what is said in the Book of Genesis. The law was designed to attack the teaching of Darwinism. The big contenders are Mathew Harrison Brady, a christian speaker, and Henry Drummond a very libertarian defense attorney. A very good read.

Also later turned into a movie starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March; directed by Stanley Kramer. Luckily, the movie stayed very close to the original play.

It should be noted that Inherit the Wind should not be seen as an accurate representation of the Scopes Monkey Trial. It was meant to show the fallacy of fundamentalism, and so is blatently biased against the Creationists. It portrays them as raving psychotic madmen, intent on squelching all thought. Granted, there were a few like this, but the reaction was not nearly as depraved as this play makes it to be.

Inherit the Wind does not purport to be a historically accurate depiction of the Scopes trial. The stage directions set the time as "Not long ago." Place names and names of trial participants have been changed. Lawrence and Lee created several fictional characters, including a fundamentalist preacher and his daughter, who in the play is the fiancée of John Scopes. Henry Drummond is less cynical and biting than the Clarence Darrow of Dayton that the Drummond character was based upon. Scopes, a relatively minor figure in the real drama at Dayton, becomes Bertram Cates, a central figure in the play, who is arrested while teaching class, thrown in jail, burned in effigy, and taunted by a fire snorting preacher. William Jennings Bryan, Matthew Harrison Brady in the play, is portrayed as an almost comical fanatic who dramatically dies of a heart attack while attempting to deliver his summation in a chaotic courtroom. The real Bryan died in his sleep five days after the conclusion of the trial. The townspeople of fictional Hillsboro are far more frenzied, mean-spirited, and ignorant than were the real denizens of Dayton.

Okay, enough debating boys, here are the facts:

by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
published 1955 by Random House Publications
ISBN: 0553269151

Directed by Stanley Kramer
Released 1960
Not Rated
ASIN: 6302120624

Directed by Daniel Petrie
Released 1999
Rated PG
ASIN: 6305600988 that the facts are conveniently out of the way, I can get into my impressions of this work.

I was 'forced' to read this book in my 11th year English class. I thought I would abhor it, but instead, well.. this was the only book I've ever stolen -- that's right, I never turned it in at the end of the year, but instead I kept it. That's how good I thought it was.

I won't make any commentary on the 'bias' of the work, suffice it to say that it's not as bias as everyone is keen to think, and I highly recommend it.

Additional: Lometa asked me to tell why I kept the book as opposed to returning it. Well, it wasn't because stealing is 'cool', and I honestly didn't intend on doing it, it just sort of happened (like sex).

Besides the whole thing being very well written, and the dialogue being well composed and all that other literature crap(!), it inspired me to one important end: it showed me that science and faith do not exist in mutually exclusive space. It was this book that really gave me personal license to examine my faith with a scientific eye -- and in doing so, I realized that they can co-exists and, in fact, compliment each other. It mostly stems from the section of courtroom dialogue where Drummond is examining the good Reverend Brady as an Expert Witness on the subject of the Bible. The debate is on the age of a rock, to which Brady states that it cannot be more than 7000-some-odd years old, due to calculation based on the ages of the ancients mentioned in the Bible. Drummond responds to this answer by asking what day the Earth was created on, and how long a 'Day' was at the time. The obvious answer here is '24 hours', which is the answer Matthew Brady returns. Though, in a feat of insight I could never hope to achieve in my lifetime, Drummond asks that, if the Sun was not created until much later, after the Earth was, how can a day's length be gauged?

That left me dumbstruck for several days afterward. Being a child of science, I had always assumed that God and Science were irreconcilable, and always would be. But after having my mind opened like that, I began to think in new ways about the world and about eternity. After a bit of research on my own after that, I also came to understand that, in the original Hebrew, the Bible doesn't say anything about a day. It simply says 'a period of time', which could be 24-hours, or even billions of years.

The important point that this work made to me was that You do not have to choose.

It's a fine Spring day, and I'm coming off one of the worst colds ever. Every thing I do is underwater: I cannot walk more than thirty yards in any given direction without stopping to wheeze a little more and wish I were home. I've been lured out of my bed by my soulmate with a triple threat of Breakfast Buffet, Month-end Extra Grocery Money, and...Inherit the Wind.

Unfortunately, only one out of the three panned out. The Grocery Money was fine, but the Breakfast Buffet was almost closed by the time I came around. And Inherit the Wind....was the 1999 version.

Somehow I can see the story meeting on this one: we'd love to do "Inherit the Wind", but how? It's already been done to death, every kid in high school has had to read it, play in it, see it. We want to make it visceral, make it real again, make it viable for the 21st century. The old version looks like the Twilight Zone, and it's more about McCarthyism than it is about the Twenties, per se. How are we going to get the kids (and their parents) interested enough to watch?

The answer was, We'll assemble a dream cast (Jeff Bridges, Jack Lemmon, and George C. Scott), and shoot it with all the attention to costume and set detail that a modern television studio can muster. We'll make it more like the actual historical record, and try to show the townspeople as they actually were, not as a mindless mob. We'll make it more Christian-friendly, too, and not so blindly pro-science as the original, and give the two female parts something more to do than simply be supporting roles...

What makes this version awful instead of awesome is that Brady/Bryan is cast here as the good guy. While the original pitted a passionate career politician and power-hungry demagogue  against a cool-headed and scientifically-minded lawyer, this version is about a warm-hearted man of faith defending the status quo against a cruel scientific zealot, who bullies his client and and will stop at nothing to ridicule and vilify his opponent, even though he's an old friend. That this version makes the witty and wise H. L. Menken come off not just as cynical, but as an empty nihilist, does nothing to redeem it either. When the end rolls by and Scopes is shown with his bag packed and his girl on his arm, he goes off to a life and career ruined, not the  promise of a new life in the Big City.

From what I can see on the Internet, there are scads of folks who live in fundieland who would love to hear a story where reason and good sense won out, instead of some version of "the head is not as strong as the heart, the seat of true faith". McCarthyism is the kind of cause most 14 year olds love to rail against. However, most people seem to have liked this version, perhaps more than I would have liked.

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