The Freedom Of Thoughts
Freedom of thought is an intangible phenomenon that humanity craves. Some may say it is essential to life, but what if we did not have the right to think? Published in 1955, Inherit the Wind is considered a documentary characterizing many historical elements. It examined one of the major conflicts in the nineteenth century regarding the creationism vs evolutionism of humans. Taken place in a town named Hillsborough, the characters in this fictional story expressed their different opinions on the evolutionism topic. Throughout the play, Inherit the Wind demonstrates many contextual factors that help shape the freedom of thought trope. It consists of the author’s life experiences, challenges the dominant cultural values and incorporates the author’s philosophical viewpoint. During both the authors lifetime, they encountered many harsh events. Many which altered their writing and increased their understanding of what it meant to be able to possess the freedom to think. They lived during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union following World War 2.
During this timeframe, McCarthyism forced the Americans to violate traditional American values such as civil liberties and constitutional rights. This made the people of the country very anxious to express their opinions. Evidently, the author showed this through the words of Drummond, “I am trying to establish, your honour, that Howard- or Colonel Brady- or Darwin- or anyone in this courtroom- or you, sir- has the right to think!” (Lawrence and Lee 32). This shows that everyone has the right to express their thoughts. Although Drummond is mainly referring to the evolutionist vs fundamentalism conflict, the issue of bigotry against different beliefs and thoughts is also evident. Due to the authors’ past experiences without the presence of human rights, they wanted to address the issue of the right to think in this play. Consequently, the reason why Lawrence and Lee composed this play is to illustrate the fact that everyone should have the right to speak their mind without being shamed on. In addition, the introduction of the Scopes trial in 1925 greatly influenced the authors to rewrite a play version of the trial to address the fact that everyone should have the right to think.
The trial featured 2 journalists disputing the conflict of fundamentalism vs evolutionism. It talks about a teacher in the name of John Scopes who violated the Butler Act. This is relevant to the case of Cates where he was charged with illegally teaching the theory of evolution to the students. The authors established Cates as being the first person to speak out and this was visible through his own words, “It isn’t as simple as that. Good or bad, black or white, night or day. Do you know at the top of the world the twilight is six months long.” (Lawrence and Lee 5). He isn’t afraid to have his own point of view and used his courage to establish the freedom of thought notion. He felt that the students should have the right to choose what their own beliefs are. They shouldn’t feel restricted to following this one religion. This is significant because it displays that the anti-evolution idea is not completely irrelevant. Ultimately, the author is mocking the freedom of thought trope by encompassing the effects of the events they experienced. Thus, the author’s life experiences demonstrated the contextual factor that historical context can be seen as text and how these experiences developed the freedom of thought theme. Furthermore, this text challenged the dominant culture and values of the time because it contradicted the main culture of Christianity.
Beliefs are composed of different people believing in different ideas. This can often lead to feuds between minority and dominant groups due to controversy. This document goes against the intolerance of one’s cultural value which emphasizes the right to think freely. The opposing of the Christian religion was present when Cates taught the students evolution, “ I opened up my book and read my sophomore science class Chapter 17, Darwin’s Origin of Species”(Lawrence and Lee 8). The authors used the character of Cates to portray the person who is opposing the Christianity beliefs. Cates undertook a character who believed that students should have the power to form their own opinions about what they want to believe in. If the townspeople of Hillsborough had an open mind, they will be able to learn to accept new ideas and look at things from a different perspective.
Likewise, Drummond plays a crucial role in the play as the deuteragonist. He fights for a man’s right to think and the right to be wrong. He is considered a hero that saves the townspeople from their narrow-minded perspective on society. He does this by expressing empathy and justice for Cates and this is evident when he stood up for him despite the fact that everyone else were against him. He says, “The bible is a book. A good book. But it’s not the only book. (Lawrence and Lee 48). This quote illustrated that Drummond did not believe in the Christianity religion which was dominant at the time. He evoked the fact that the bible isn’t the only source of knowledge and everyone should have their own beliefs. This allows Drummond to ultimately gain the upper hand over Brady through the ambiguity of speech and thought. When he said this, he wanted to convey the message to look beyond the book because there are millions of books out there just like how there are a million of different beliefs. Therefore, the explanation of the bible not being the only answer to the discovery of humans justifies that this play denies the Christian ideology.
Moreover, the text demonstrated the writer’s viewpoint as it encompassed their passionate stance around the freedom of thought theme in the play. The character Drummond displayed that different perspectives can be valued with an open mind. This is evident when he says, “Right has no meaning to me whatsoever- truth has meaning- as a direction.” (Lawrence and Lee 33). This quote reflects the author’s point of view because it explains that sometimes freedom of thought becomes the freedom to be wrong. Drummond does not think that truth has a fixed set of rules that must be enforced on society; it should be something that everyone should find in themselves. The authors were trying to convey the message that neither evolutionism nor fundamentalism is right or wrong. During the trial, when Drummond is defending Cates, he is trying to seek the truth.
Additionally, Drummond demonstrates a static character who fights for the freedom of speech throughout the entire play. This is evident when he says, “I’m trying to stop you bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States.” (Lawrence and Lee 48). This quote highlights both the author’s philosophical views on freedom of thought. They wanted to fight for the limitations set on a person’s mind. Drummond is not trying to change the minds of the townspeople; he is at the trial to open up their minds to other ideas. His perspective is that the law shouldn’t limit what the students want to learn. Everyone has different opinions on different theories and should not be put down because they believe in a religion that is the minority group. Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee’s Inherit the Wind displayed many contextual aspects that allowed us to look through the lens with a historical view. It showed that freedom of thought is a right that every person is obligated to. The play displayed that we should have an open mind and value the different beliefs of others. The events the authors experienced, as demonstrated by Lawrence and Lee help challenged the dominant cultural values of the nineteenth century and reflected their philosophical views on evolutionism vs creationism. Through this documentary, both the writer’s goal was to eliminate narrow-minded people from affecting others against having the freedom to think for themselves. Inherit the Wind showed that everyone in our society, regardless of age, gender, race and background should be able to express their own opinions. The inspiration released from this case allows the people in our society today understand the true meaning of having the freedom to thought.
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