Inherit the Wind
The Audience’s Response to Brady: Mixed Feelings and Complex Characterization
Upon viewing Inherit the Wind, the audience leaves Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee’s play with such a conflict of emotions due to the playwrights’ constant changing of the audience’s perspective on Brady’s character, and through the transformation of his personality from hubris to delusion, and finally to a sense of broken realisation, the audience leaves the play with such a wheel of opinions that it is difficult to interpret Brady’s character as a whole throughout the play. The playwrights convey Brady to the audience, in the first parts of the play, as arrogant and proud; this initial sense of grandiloquence and self-confidence creates an elevated aura about Brady, thus making his fall from greatness all the more pronounced, whilst maximising the contrast of his personality in the former to the latter parts of the play.
The playwrights achieve such effects by creating anticipation to the arrival of Brady through the anxiety and excitement of the townsfolk, manifesting itself in their conversations, such as ‘Imagine. Matthew Harrison Brady comin’ here … I seen him once,’ thus immersing the audience into the townsfolk’s almost godly opinion of Brady, conveyed by the proudness and incredulity of having ‘seen him once.’ Upon his arrival, the townsfolk’s opinions of Brady seem to be vindicated through the eloquence and appeal of his speech, described as ‘When Brady speaks, there can be no doubt of his personal magnetism,’ made more vivid by contrast of the clumsiness of the Mayor’s speech, ‘Mr. President Wilson wouldn’t never have got to the White House,’ using the obtuseness of the double negative and colloquialism to paint Brady in an even greater light. Brady is set up from the outset as conceited and self-obsessed by the playwrights on account of his attitude that he will without doubt win the trial, contrasted with the sympathy the audience feel for the modest and shy Bert Cates, whose language, ‘(Trying to cheer [Rachel] up) You know something funny? … you’d better not tell anyone how cool it is down there, or we’ll have a crime wave ever summer,’ is light-hearted and humane, despite being in a troubling situation, thus providing a sharp contrast to the self-centred and arrogant Brady. Despite the audience’s initial opinion of Brady’s strong reputation and ability as a speaker, the grandiloquence and hubris of his fighting calls that ‘the whole world will be watching our victory over Drummond,’ is somewhat undermined by his bathetic over-indulgence in food – ‘it would be a pity to see them go to waste,’ – leaving the audience’s high view of Brady’s charisma and reputation as an orator dented, and an impression of materialism and the dramatic irony of his and the Bible’s hypocrisy hinted, as Scene 1 draws to a close.
As the narrative progresses, the trial itself sees the audience’s support of Drummond and Cates heighten due to the consideration and morality of the former whilst in court, compared to the patronising and sly methods employed by Matthew Harrison Brady. The immediate contrast of personalities is displayed in the opening stage directions of Scene 2 between the modesty and candour of ‘Cates sits beside Drummond at a counsel table,’ compared to ‘Brady sits grandly at another table,’ immediately displaying his arrogance, whilst ‘fanning himself with benign self-assurance,’ utilises dramatic irony to paint a picture of Brady’s false confidence and haughtiness, thus making more pronounced the audience’s opinion of Brady’s foolishness. The trial manifests the humility and kindness of Drummond and the lack thereof of Brady. When Howard is called to the stand in Act 2, Scene 1, he is described as ‘wretched in a starched collar and Sunday suit,’ and thus nervous about the prospect of appearing in court. Brady’s mannerisms and speech when talking to Howard are, especially when contrasted with Drummond, sly and harsh. Brady twists Howard by saying, ‘Along with the dogs and cattle in the field: did he say that?’ thus putting words into Howard’s mouth, much to the disapproval of Drummond – ‘about to protest against prompting the witness,’ – yet Brady’s slyness is further manifested in, ‘(Howard gulps. Brady points at the boy.) I tell you, if this law is not upheld, this boy will become one of a generation,’ which adds to the audience’s view of Brady a sense of heartlessness and insensitivity through his ‘pointing’ at a young and terrified child, all just to try and further his case to the court. This view is furthered when contrasted to Drummond’s mannerisms with Howard – ‘He punches Howard’s right arm playfully,’ and, ‘Drummond turns back to the boy in a pleasantly familiar manner,’ – providing a sharp contrast between the kind and personable Drummond and the harsh and unethical Brady.
The latter stages of the play see Brady’s fall from pride and arrogance, and the transformation of the audience’s opinions of him from loathing of his hubris, to a sense of sympathy for his exposed weakness and fragility of mind. This change of Brady’s portrayal for the audience is the principal factor for the conflict of feelings in the audience’s mind between a sense of justice over Brady’s emotional loss, and a pathetic light over apparent inner troubles. When Drummond calls Brady to the stand, the playwrights have him adopt an aura of further grandiosity in his mannerisms, as exemplified by ‘His air is that of a benign and learned mathematician about to be quizzed by a schoolboy on matters of short division,’ combined with the confident chiasmus of ‘I am more interested in the rock of ages than I am in the age of rocks,’ so portraying his self-assumed arrogance and superiority over Drummond. Thus the playwrights evoke furthered will in the audience’s mind for Brady to tumble from his high horse, hence making more significant Brady’s diffident admittance that there could be flaws in the Holy Bible – ‘It is … possible…’ which through the utilisation of the ellipses provides a sharp contrast from Brady’s apparent self-assurance and eloquence to signal the beginning of the crumbling of his case and his emotional strength, whilst the audience is eager for the final nails to be knocked into Brady’s coffin. As Drummond proceeds to disprove and dismiss Brady and his case, the latter, on his emotional downfall clings desperately onto listing the books of the Bible before ending the scene in a pathetic and weak light – ‘‘I can’t stand it when they laugh at me’… Mrs. Brady sways gently back and forth, as if rocking a child to sleep’ – leaving the audience in a conflict of feeling a sense of justice whilst simultaneously a sense of sympathy is evoked for the wounded Brady. As court resumes the following day, and the sentence is ruled, Brady, ‘in comparative shadow’ protests the ruling and commencing another Bible-fuelled discourse, ‘from the hallowed hills of Mount Sinai,’ his words cease – ‘his lips move, but nothing comes out,’ and as he falls to the ground, Brady, ‘in a strange, unreal voice,’ begins his undelivered inauguration speech – ‘as your new president, I can say what I have said all of my life,’ thus the playwrights, in the audience’s final view of Brady, evoke through Brady’s threefold failure to be voted in as president pathos among the audience for his clear mental devastation and pining over this loss. This same mental deterioration is manifested in ‘as if something sealed up inside of him were finally broken,’ which makes clear the sense of Brady’s masquerade of arrogance to cover up his feelings of insufficiency throughout the play, thus inviting a sense of partial understanding over his apparent arrogance, combined with an undoubted sense of pathos as the broken and wrecked figure of Brady leaves the stage.
The playwrights portray Brady in such different lights throughout the play – from arrogance and hubris, to slyness and a pathetic sense of Brady in the end as his emotions and his case crumble. Those final scenes, and Brady’s obvious deep-seated devastation over the loss of his three presidential races are revealed by the playwrights to offer some reasoning for his previous arrogance, thus the audience is left with a conflict of emotions, remembering both the haughty Brady in the former stages of the play and a sense of justice, combined with the broken and wretched Brady who leaves us in the final scene with a pathetic mood.
Experiencing Uncertainty in Brady’s Character
The play Inherit the Wind is one that exhibits contrasting characterisations of its major, influential individuals. Yet, within this contrast of personalities, each separate role is portrayed to the audience in a slightly ambiguous manner, and as a result, the congregation views him with a slight ambivalence towards some of the playwright’s dominant figures. A prime example of this complicated dramatization is the big-voiced, high-status Mathew Harrison Brady. At points in the production, Brady is often pompous and shows hubristic values with his bombast but at others, he exhibits pathetic emotions and a fragile state of mind, leading us to perceive him with empathy.
Our first impressions of Brady are that the social charisma and pretense he displays as the townspeople welcome him is affected by an underlying vulnerability that he has, which appears to us to be eating, ‘Brady is a great eater’. Retrospectively his greed seems all the more gratuitous in the sentence which reveals that not only has he just feasted on the produce of the Hillsboro community, but he had had a meal before, ‘But you see we had a lunch box on the train’. The satire in the moment when the juxtaposition of him reassuring himself that he had the support when he ran for president, showing perhaps electoral corruption, to Davenport stepping in and introducing himself to Brady, and then Brady possessing a patronizing attitude towards the circuit district attorney, undercuts magisterial patriarch, ‘I trust it was in three separate election?…Sir, I’m Tom Davenport…Of course. Circuit district attorney. We’ll be a team, won’t we, young man! Quite a team!’ We feel Brady, quite near the beginning, displays his hubris; pride before the fall, and his paternal strategy on Rachel to try and obtain information about her lover, Cates. He is sympathetic and considerate with, ‘I understand your loyalty, my child.’ This title of ‘my child’ is superciliously religious and is an example of power play by Brady to create an aura of false security. ‘He moves her easily away from the others.’ This portrays that he can easily manipulate; tenderising the person he is ‘interviewing’, and in this case, Rachel is passive and cannot do anything to object.
The mouthful of food he has whilst addressing her makes the situation seem all the more crass. Once more his tainted hubris is displayed with his gradation, or growth into the prospect of the great Henry Drummond as his opposition in the courtroom, ‘Henry Drummond has stalked the courtrooms of this land…When he fights, headlines follow. The whole world will be watching our victory over Drummond.’ Bathetically, this is then contrasted with the offer of more food, ‘Would you care to finish off the pickled apricots Mr Brady?’ from a local. His grandiloquence of speech far surpasses that of the townspeople, seemingly portraying him as out-of-place, and so he resorts back to the sanctuary and comfort of food: what he knows he is able to trust. We understand that Brady likes the attention and enjoys the adulation he receives; he is wise in the art of public speaking, ‘Brady assumes the familiar oratorical pose’ (for a photo). One would feel that it would be a spontaneous action but he does it without conscious thought; presenting him as an eminent character with charisma and authority. However, like at so many other points in the play, his stature is undercut bathetically, ‘Howard has stuck his head, mouth agape, into the photo’. It just contrast Brady’s formality and seriousness over the whole situation to the quirky, incredulous (to Brady’s prestige), ignorant community that surrounds him.
As the production progresses into the trial of Cates for teaching Darwinism, the more vocational Brady appears. At the prayer meeting, Brady’s arrogance and concern over his profile is displayed with ‘he was loving the feel of the board beneath his feet. This is the squared circle where he has fought so many bouts with the English language, and won’; he loves the stage and the aura. However, we do occasionally get the impression that Brady is trustworthy and knows fundamentally what must be done beneath all the evangelical/ Christian ethos that he follows during most of the book. He warns Reverend Brown not to entirely alienate his daughter, ‘He that troubleth his own house…shall inherit the wind. (He makes a gesture with his open hand to indicate nothingness: the empty air, the brief and unremembered wind.)’ This wisdom is a rarity from Brady and is shown at a time of tense quietness as the ‘dazed’ Brown exits from the hysterical, hypnotic trance he has worked himself into which is not a good sign and shows the extremities of his belief- at this point we neglect the idea of Brady’s pretentious values, and warm to his genuine paternal figure of benevolence and rationality.
There is then a pensive moment where the two great enemies, once friends, where they ponder on how they have drifted away. Drummond sheds light on the matter with a paradoxically strong statement which is incisive after all the hysteria and excitement of the prayer meeting, ‘All motion is relative. Perhaps it is you who have moved away- by standing still.’ The sentimentality in this phrase forces Brady to be burdened with the blame, perhaps making the audience feel sympathy for him – ‘slowly the lights fade on the silent man’. This quietness and pensiveness about Brady witnessed in the previous scene, might debatably be seen again in the trial, when Howard, a young boy; ignorant and innocent, is called to the witness stand by Brady, it is evident that he is merely exploiting the lack of knowledge the boy possesses to make his case more credible. He makes a show of the interview with his stereotypical elaborateness. He plays on naturalistic feelings, using bad puns such as ‘Evil-ution’ which comes across as heavy handed and unnecessary. His emotive, metaphorical language alienates Howard, ‘legislature…sovereign…peddlers of poison…to think that he wriggled up from the filth and muck below…not unaware’. The latter quote is an example of litotes which Brady uses subconsciously and exhibits his hubris yet again. This supercilious language is impersonal to the boy; irrelative to the witness: ‘Howard gulps. Brady points at the boy’- he is using the boy merely to withhold his integrity; it is an intended stage direction to address him as the demeaning, derogatory ‘boy’ to create a sense of distance between them. ‘The faithful the whole world over’ is hyperbolic and signifies how dramatic Brady creates his argument. There is ‘applause from the spectators’ as if the gravity of the court case has been lost, as if at some procedural event.
Drummond is different in how he addresses Howard; much more composed and gets down to the level at which Howard is able to understand what is being thrown at him. He cleverly utilizes Howard’s everyday life to contradict the bible. ‘A harmonica following a symphony orchestra’ is what Drummond is described as; a humble, every day instrument synonymous with this man- that is the difference between the living-in-the-past Brady and him. In the moments where Brady is defeated and as a result, has a breakdown, we are reminded of the comfort eating from when he first arrived subtly contrasted ironically with what he is now: an emotional wreck, ‘Mrs. Brady sways gently back and forth, as if rocking a child to sleep’. We empathize with Brady here and the pathos that he evokes, as we know his sole ambition was to not be satirized in this situation or defeated morally. This is another rare moment where I feel that the audience should be sympathetic to the troubled lawyer. In conclusion, there are many examples that are the antithesis of each other as to whether Brady is meant to be portrayed as someone to be comforted due to visible pathos displayed to the viewers and somebody with charismatic values or some abhorrent, overly confident, hubristic lawyer, who is self-righteous and dwells one step behind society. Yet from my eyes, he is exhibited more as having the latter values and as a result is repugnant, impersonal and simply objectifies situations in order to fuel his ego.