Act Two, Scene I Summary:
That same night, on the courthouse lawn, the heat has cooled down and workmen are preparing a platform for the prayer meeting. In a impromptu press conference, Brady says that he and Drummond were once on the same side, when Drummond fought for him in his 1908 campaign, but that he would oppose his own brother if he were to challenge the faith of millions. When the other reporters disperse, Brady tells Hornbeck he has read his press clippings and is disappointed to find his writing so biased. Hornbeck says he is a critic, not a reporter.
Just then, Mrs. Brady arrives with Reverend Brown and fusses about Brady in the cool night air. Drummond arrives just as Brown begins to preach to the crowd which has gathered. He is charismatic, preaching a paraphrased Creation story from Genesis, earning fervent responses from the crowd. He rides a wave of enthusiasm through the six days of Creation and has the crowd proclaiming their belief in the truth of the Word and cursing the man who denies the Word.
Together with the crowd in a frenzied prayer, Brown calls upon God to call down hellfire and vengeance upon Cates, to make him writhe in damnation, when finally Rachel cries out to stop him. In response, he calls upon God to curse those who ask for grace for sinners. Finally, Brady rushes over and grasps Brown's arm. He says that it is possible to be so overzealous as to destroy that which you hope to save. He quotes the wisdom of Solomon, "He that troubleth his own house...shall inherit the wind." He reminds him that the Bible urges forgiveness and sends the townspeople home.
As the townspeople leave, singing "Go Tell It on the Mountain," Brady is left alone on the platform with Drummond. He asks him how, when they used to understand each other so well, Drummond has moved so far away from him. Drummond replies that perhaps it is Brady who has moved away, simply by standing still. Brady is struck by this statement and falteringly moves off, leaving Drummond alone onstage.
Act Two, Scene I Analysis:
Perspective resurfaces this scene in an examination of the power of interpretation. Each man Brown and Brady refer to the same book, the Bible, but use it to support entirely different viewpoints. Brown focuses upon the Old Testament, both in his retelling of Creation story from Genesis and in his calling down of a vengeful God from "the days of the Pharaohs." Brady in contrast draws upon the New Testament and the message of forgiveness. However, even in his references to the Old Testament as in words he attributes to Solomon Brady seeks to present an image of a loving, forgiving God. Thus, it is clear that these seemingly contradictory interpretations of the Bible reveal more about the interpreter than about the book itself.
Brady may be the antagonist in this play, in his role as the prosecutor seeking to convict Cates for teaching evolution, but he is by no means a black-and-white villain. From his and Drummond's own recollections, it is clear that the two men opposing each other in the courtroom in fact have much in common. Certainly, Brady is troubled by this gulf between him and his former comrade. In contrast, Reverend Brown represents the extreme end of the spectrum so extreme in his beliefs that Brady himself terms him overzealous and stops his condemnation of Cates. Brown's hatred and the crowd's embrace of his preaching make even Brady, a man who says he is defending the faith of millions, uncomfortable.
In some ways, the allusion to Solomon provides an apt comparison to Brady. Like Solomon, he is a wise and respected figure. His insight into Brown's rantings and warning that his hatred will only destroy him proves this. But like Solomon, from the Old Testament, Brady is also a creature of the past. Though his wisdom may be applicable in the present of the play, his customs are not. Drummond's statement, that Brady has moved away from him by standing still, renews the them of progress in the play. The old ways are not always the best, for clinging to old customs demonstrates stagnation of thought and inability to truly see the world as it is.
Like the weather, the crowd plays a significant role in elucidating the beliefs and flaws of Hillsboro. In the opening scene, the playwrights described the courtroom set as open, so that the town would always be visible surrounding the courtroom throughout the play. Metaphorically, they intended the action of this specific court case to be informed and determined by the small town Southern environment in which it takes place. The "Read Your Bible!" banner which hangs over the entrance to the courthouse is another physical representation of the way environment determines people's interpretation and understanding. Similarly, the overly-fervent crowd, who joins Reverend Brown in his condemnation of Cates, present a underlying force of danger. The combination of their unthinking acceptance and fervent, passionate feeling make them incredibly dangerous because they cannot be reasoned with. Far more than Brady, they represent the status quo, from which they are loathe to be moved.