How are Southerners portrayed in Inherit the Wind, the play written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee?
Although the overt and obvious conflict of this 1955 play, which is based on the Scopes trial of 1925, is whether or not evolution should be taught in schools, the underlying conflict between old and new ideas is one that many small towns find themselves dealing with. Hillsboro, the Tennessee town that is the setting for the play, is stuck in a cultural rut of conservative Christian fundamentalist thought, and for the most part, the people are perfectly happy to continue that way. There is no discussion of evolution, or much else, for that matter as the townspeople have a homogenous mindset grounded in a fairly narrow-minded version of Christianity that has been aggressively foisted upon them by Reverend Jeremiah Brown, and then in court by Matthew Harrison Brady, the prosecuting attorney. The idea of ideas is frightening to the conservatives, and independent thinking is strongly frowned upon in the community. Henry Drummond, the opposing counsel, is from Chicago and represents the idea of human progress, while Brady, although not a true Southerner, is identified with the Southern ideals as he hails from equally rural Nebraska.