Inherit the Wind. Reverend Brown

QUESTION: Explore the ways in which Lawrence and Lee make Brown contribute so much to the dramatic impact of the play?


Inherit the Wind is a comprehensive play scripted by the playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E Lee in the 1950s. The play is dramatised by the significant character Reverend Jeremiah Brown who throughout the play is seen as the perfect synecdoche of the religious community of the United States of America during the 1920’s. The playwrights are successful in amusing the audience through the impactful use of contrast, stage directions, dramatic dialogues, character delineation and highlighting the underlining theme of Religion versus Christianity.

Lawrence and Lee exploit the use of distinctive dialect and dialogues in order to convey Brown’s utter devotion for religion. As the “head of the religious community” of the conservative town of Hillsboro, he is portrayed as a strong and bold character, which is reflected by his dialogue delivery throughout the play. Under his ‘leadership’, the whole town encompasses within themselves the rigid fundamentalist ideologies that have been looming them since the very birth of Jesus. Not only is he sure and stubborn about his beliefs, he assures Brady that “you (Brady) would find our people are fervent in their belief” as he stands up and speaks for the community as whole. ”. This amplifies the dramatic impact of the play and compliments the image of Hillsboro as a town, which was about to be “vigorously awakened”. Additionally, Lawrence and Lee use Brown’s sermons to both remind the audience of the creation story as it is told in the Bible and to illustrate how narrow-minded the anti-evolutionists are. Another element that further heightens the dramatic magnitude of the play is the excessive use of exaggeration; “O lord of the Tempest and the Thunder!”, “O lord of the Righteousness and the Wrath!”. This style of writing aids in adding depth to the dialogues and further intensifying them. The reference to the archaic English “thou” and “didst” emphasises on the hyperbolic tone of the scene. This fluent and peculiar use of the diction really helps the playwrights in further making the more theatrical.

One of the most striking components of the play that helps in dramatising it is how Brown willingly puts religion on a higher pedestal than his very own family.

He even went as far as to compelling his daughter to divulge her private conversations with Cates in order to help make Brady’s case stronger. His great rhetorician skills are evident when he refers to the public as “Brothers and Sisters”, while he ironically damns his own daughter following that very sermon. He repetitively uses personal pronouns and strong verbs collectively, for example “We believe”, in order to engage both, the residents of Hillsboro, and the people who were witnessing the play as he threw light upon the underlining theme of Christianity. Lawrence and Lee are successful in raising the tension that hung in the air through the use of meaningful stage directions. The playwrights elucidate Brown’s oratory skills by gradually escalating the magnitude of his speech as Brown begins from “Calling out” to eventually “Whipping ‘em (the audience) out”, along with the occasional “whisper” and gestures like “pointing a (his) finger”. These short and successive dialogues with “each voice” “mightier than the last”, really intrigues the crowd, as they agree with the Reverend with whatever he says. At this point, Rachel also enters, but “remains at the fringes of the crowd”. This could show how Rachel was afraid of her father and probably even ashamed to face him as she had gone against his wishes and had sided with Cates. This further reiterates how the Reverend chose his religion and profession to be above his family. Usage of phrases like “Rachel slips off” and “She rushes to the platform” further display her helplessness in the matter. At this very instance, the dramatic essence of this play reaches its zenith as Brown “call(s) down the same curse” despite Rachel “be(ing) the blood of my (his) blood, and flesh of my (his) flesh”. This scene majorly contributes to the dramatic impact of this play.

Brown’s utter hatred for evolutionists like Henry Drummond and E.K. Hornbeck is another factor magnifying the histrionic impact of this play. The playwrights let Brown ridicule Drummond in front of the public as he starts ranting about Drummond even before he is introduced to the audience. Drummond, in his eyes was the prevalent obstacle in the path of Right. Brown believed him to be “Agnostic”, “Vicious”, “Godless”, and a “Slouching hulk of a man” who he felt was here to contaminate the religious and moral values of the ‘pure souls’ and was willing to try his hardest to let criminals like Cates, walk free. Brown also calls him “An agent of darkness” , “The devil himself”, and the “Creature of the Devil” and even goes as far as to deny him entry into the town. Even once Drummond has entered the town, Brown continues to detest him and “glowers at Drummond” at the prayer meeting. Brown seems to hate Hornbeck in a similar fashion. Even when he doesn’t know him, he holds “negative connotations”. Their feud foreshadows how their contrasting fundamentalist and evolutionary ideologies can never coexist and one will always come out on top. This helps in further intensifying the drama in the play. A direct contrast of Brown’s attitude is fairy noticeable when we compare his approach towards commenting on Drummond, and his thought upon welcoming Brady. Brown is introduced in the play while “scowling” as he frantically aids in welcoming “the biggest man in the country next to the president”. He is seen attempting to impress Brady as he tries to make sure that he “show(s) him at once what kind of a community this is”. His utter reverence for Brady is evident when he refers to himself and the Hillsboro community as Brady’s “servant, and the Lord’s”. This witty comment doesn’t only shows that he truly respects Brady, but also makes his stance upon the notion of case crystal clear. It is also extremely beguiling for the reader to see a sudden shift in tone when the reverend addresses his daughter and when he addresses Brady. Where he is seen to be ”fierce” to his daughter, he is gentle and humble towards Brady. He put his own daughter in an emotional torment but still does not fail to show his pride in her religious upbringing and his teachings of always doing “the right thing”.

Personally, I feel that dramatic impact of the play is often related to the theatrical courtroom scenes, whereas a major component of it revolves around the commanding character of Brown, who represents and speaks for the religious community of the United States of America. The Reverend is seen to be an extremely powerful character, which even manages to overshadow Brady, with the use of extremely powerful diction. He uses words like “sinner”, “hellfire” and “curse” to depict the aggression and antagonism within the fundamentalists, which set forth the play. The character of reverend Brown foreshadows portrays the immensely strong devotion to the Holy Scriptures of the Bible, which has blindfolded them, and envelopes the whole town of Hillsboro like a cocoon. Drummond and Cates realise that it is important to burst this delusional bubble and explore the realities of this world, and the character of Reverend Brown foreshadows the fall of Fundamentalism, and the beginning of a new era where the people start exploring the technicalities of this world.

Thus by using dramatic dialogues, stage directions and character delineation, Lawrence and Lee make Brown’s character contribute so much to the dramatic impact of the play.


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