Inherit the Wind is a 1955 play written as a critique of McCarthyism, not unlike Arthur Miller's allegorical The Crucible from 1953. But instead of setting the story during the Salem Witch Trials, playwrights Lawrence and Lee place Inherit the Wind in 1925 and offer a fictionalized version of the "Scopes Monkey Trial" that pitted the state of Tennessee against science teacher John Scopes, an evolutionist.
“He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart” is quoted from Proverbs 11:29 in The Bible and is actually used three times in the play. A plausible interpretation of Proverbs 11:29 as it applies to the play is that Reverend Brown brings trouble upon his house in the literal sense of causing strife in his relationship with his daughter, Rachel, by railing against her boyfriend, Bert Cates, in a sermon after Cates's arrest for defying state law to teach evolution to his sophomore science class. In a larger sense, Brown creates strife for the community with his agitation. To "inherit the wind" means to gain nothing for your efforts, as one cannot capture or possess this force of nature. It can be said that though Rev. Brown and Brady, the prosecuting attorney, technically win the case, they gain little for their efforts as people quickly lose interest in the issue, Cates's punishment is a minor fine, and Brown's relationship with his daughter is ruined. Moreover, the community's reputation suffers as it becomes known as a hotbed of intolerance of intellectual freedom.
A second, partial quotation from The Bible is also found in the play; it is a variation on Genesis 1:27. The bold text is biblical; the rest is provided by the playwrights:
“God created Man in His own image—and Man, being a gentleman, returned the compliment.”
The title "Inherit the Wind" is an allusion to the Book of Proverbs 11:29 , "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart." The allusion to this verse has several applications in the play. In Act 2, Scene 1, Reverend Brown "trouble his own house" by alienating his daughter when he gives a fiery sermon against Cates. Brady tells this proverb to Brown, indicating that the reverend indicating that once the trial is over, Brown may win the court case but he will lose his daughter in the process and thus "inherit the wind" or nothing. In Act 3, it is pointed out that when Brady told Brown his was "troubling his own house", Brady was "delivering his own obituary." Ironically, Brady also "inherits the wind" because he dies as a result of the stress brought on by the trial. Finally, the town itself "inherits the wind". They make such a fuss and turn the trial into such a circus, that the trial draws national attention and its residents are made to look both inflexible and ignorant. Their reputation is ruined even though they won the court case.