The Image of Heretic Through Bertram Cates Character in 'Inherit the Wind'

According to, a heretic is a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church and another definition is anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle. Bertram Cates is a character from Inherit the Wind that portrays heretic qualities. He thinks freely and is considered a critical thinker. He stands out because he is opposing the religious views that the town has and is using more of a scientific approach when it comes to the way that he views things. A critical thinker is when a person questions the commonly held views by adopting a skeptical attitude; they attempt to move beyond accepted preconceived notions, assumptions, beliefs or biases. They are by definition critical thinkers because they attempt to see a little further than those that came before them, even if it is a dangerous endeavor.

Cates is Considered a Heretic because he is accused of breaking the law. the people of Hillsboro put him in jail for teaching his students about Darwin’s theory. He was being hated, vilified and attacked by the religious community. “People look at me as if I was a murderer. Worse than a murderer!” and, “People I thought were my friends look at me now as if I had horns growing out of my head.” This shows that Cates is not liked by the religious community of the town and is seen as a murder for reading Darwin’s theory of Evolution book to his students. Even his friends and especially Rachel was against him for reading this book because he was breaking the law. In addition, Rachel was scared to defy her dad because he is the mayor of the town. This also shows that the people of the town are chained to blindly believing and doing what the bible says and blindly apply it in their daily lives. As Plato mentioned in the Allegory of the Cave “behold human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have their legs and necks chained so that they can not move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads”. Rachel also tells cates to say that what he is doing is a joke and that he would never read and teach this book again so that he could get out of jail faster. “Bert, why don’t you tell’em it was a joke? Tell’em you did not mean to break the law, and you won’t do it again!”

In addition, Cates is a critical thinker because he explains to Rachel why he thinks that teaching his students about evolution is the right thing to do; you know why I did it. I had the book in my hand, Hunter's Civic Biology. I opened it up, and read my sophomore science class Chapter 17, Darwin's Origin of Species. Then she states All it says is that man wasn't just stuck here like a geranium in a flower pot; that living comes from a long miracle, it didn't just happen in seven days. Then when Rachel protests, he explains that ideas and actions are not simply good or bad: “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?” These passages show us that Cates is a thinking man. He doesn't just do what other people tell him to, without thinking things through first. He can't accept that the Bible is a completely literal document. And since he's decided that teaching evolution in schools is morally correct, according to his internal compass, then he's not going to follow some silly law that states otherwise. This isn't to say that right and wrong aren't really important to Bert; clearly, they are. But Bert's smarty-pants attitude is a big part of the play's overall message because by silencing one of the cleverest guys in town, his enemies are basically positioned as people who want to keep everyone ignorant.

The modern-day is a time where bullying and shaming due to breaking social norms can get you in trouble. Our “normal” is defined by what we accept socially and, for a long time, we were taught that men cannot wear makeup. Men must be tough and effeminate and follow convention or what is normal. Social norms are the social rules that determine our standards of acceptable actions among individuals, whether explicitly or implicitly. These are everyday things like shaking hands when you greet someone, standing in a crowded elevator a certain distance from someone else as you talk, and how you approach them. Gender norms are a subset of social standards, and these are the moral expectations around the age of an individual. Generally speaking, men are expected to be strong, hostile, and brave. Men's domestic activities include caring for money, working in car shops, and doing house repairs. Pilots, doctors, and engineers are predominantly male. They are also expected to be self-confident and hostile in terms of their attitude and not to reveal their feelings. As for physical appearance, men are expected to be athletic and large, and they have to be well dressed by wearing pants and having short hair. Women, on the other hand, are expected to stay home to take care of the kids, do house cleaning, and cook. As for personality traits women are expected to be considerate and emotional. Also, they are expected to be slim and elegant. They also have to be well dressed by wearing dresses and makeup.

In conclusion, Bertram Cates is changing the society to fit his ideologies. The modern-day person that Bertram Cates is related to is Jeffree Star, who is breaking the social norms by showing his femininity and not accepting his masculinity. Bertram Cates wanted the people of his time to understand his ideology that it is okay to use science and reason to interpret religion.                                                       

07 July 2022
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