The Media's Impact on the Scopes Monkey Trial

The Media's Impact on the Scopes Monkey Trial

Length: 1226 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
The Media's Impact on the Scopes Monkey Trial

        The 1920’s were a period of transition for America.  The culture of society
was quickly adapting to many new ideas and beliefs.  Traditional schools of thought were
gradually being replaced with new technology and knowledge.  The changes taking place
were the source of much conflict, as many historical events of the twenties can illustrate. One such event is the Scopes “Monkey” Trial.  From our research we discovered that the trial pitted Modernists against Traditionalists, Fundamentalists against Evolutionists, and the Country against the City.  However, these conflicts would not have been brought to the attention of the American public if the media had not been so engrossed in the event. That idea helped in formulating our research question: Why did the media choose to get so involved in such a localized, small town affair?

      In order to answer this question we decided to examine the aforementioned
conflicts to try to understand why the media showed such strong interest in the trial.  We found that the media recognized this case as a perfect way to bring these conflicts to the forefront of the American mind.  By doing this, the ideas and beliefs of modernists could be showcased and possibly validated.  This was a way to indirectly force change and
progress in America.  To demonstrate this point, the socio-cultural conflicts need to be
investigated and related to the Scopes trial.

      Before looking at these issues, some background is necessary.  The whole
controversy originated when the Butler Law was passed in 1925 prohibiting the teaching
of the Evolution theory in state funded schools (Scopes and Presley 52).  When the
American Civil Liberties Union discovered the law, they put out a press release requesting the cooperation of a Tennessee teacher in a “friendly test case” of the law (DeCamp 8). Dayton resident George Rappleyea and some friends came up with the idea to have the case in Dayton and decided to ask John Scopes to be the teacher to test the law.

      Scopes was a science teacher at Dayton High School.  However, he only
taught Biology for two weeks as a substitute at the end of the school year.  When
Rappleyea asked Scopes if he taught the theory of evolution, he said he didn’t really
remember.  Nonetheless, Scopes accepted the offer(despite some initial opposition), and
the Scopes “Monkey” Trial saga began.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Media's Impact on the Scopes Monkey Trial." 15 Dec 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Outcome of The Scopes Monkey Trial Essay

- The Scopes Trial, formally known as The State of Tennessee vs. Scopes but given the nickname “The Monkey Trial”, has been credited as starting the popular legal dispute between evolution and creationism in the court, and its impact in the 20’s was immeasurable. The interpretation of the case is just as popular, if not more, than the actual result of the case. The worldwide attention and media coverage the case received produced many opinions. Scholar’s opinions range from describing the case as an irrelevancy and a good show to describing it as a “Watershed in American religious history” (Ronald L....   [tags: evolution, darwin, clarence darrow]

Research Papers
1564 words (4.5 pages)

Scopes Monkey Trial Essay

- The publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859 introduced the public to the theory of evolution, or the theory that all living organisms, including humans, developed and diversified from other organisms or species. Backed with findings that served as strong evidence, Darwin sparked a scientific revolution that changed the world's modern view and understanding of science. He also sparked a heated controversy among a Christian dominated society. This clash between science (Darwin's Theory of Evolution) and religion (Bible scriptures) as the teaching of evolution became widespread across the country is best reflected in the Scopes Trial of the...   [tags: Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species]

Research Papers
970 words (2.8 pages)

Essay about Scopes Trial

- The roaring 20's, a definitive time for change in the world. An introducing to new technologies and philosophies is sweeping the country and with it a change that is met with opposition. A notable event that affects everyone, is the infamous “Monkey Trials.” The lasting effect of a mockingly laughable monkey trial, was felt in many areas of everybody’s lives. Specifically the impact felt was seen through media, changes in personal intellect and the transition from traditional to modern values. “Not only was the trial heavily covered; it changed its nature to accommodate the coverage.” This case drastically altered the scale and the hype of any media until that time....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
544 words (1.6 pages)

Scopes Monkey Trial Essay

- Scopes Monkey Trial Perhaps one of the most famous trials in our history was that of the John Scopes. Scopes was a high school teacher in Dayton, Tennessee and was arrested because he was teaching the theory of evolution in his high school biology class. During the 1920's it was against the law in Tennessee to teach anything other than the theory of creation as written in the Bible. These laws were a result of a strong fundamentalist movements spreading throughout the United States. In 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) volunteered to defend any teacher willing to challenge these laws concerning the teaching of evolution....   [tags: John Scopes]

Free Essays
344 words (1 pages)

The Scopes Monkey Trial Essay

- Ever since science began to explain the previously unexplainable, it has caused conflicts with religion. The Scopes “Monkey” Trial of Dayton, Tennessee was one of the most talked about trials in history because it was one of the first and most publicized times that this conflict occurred. The trial showed the schism between the faithful fundamentalists and the newly formed group of evolutionists. Although the jury was reminded that they only had to decide if Scopes had broken the law, the verdict was seen as much more than that....   [tags: Clarence Darrow, teaching evolution]

Research Papers
1128 words (3.2 pages)

Essay about The Scopes Monkey Trial

- The Scopes Monkey Trial       In a tiny courtroom in the county of Dayton Tennessee, the jury settled into their seats, ready to return the verdict in the most controversial case of the 1920’s, the scopes “monkey” trial.  Up to this point, the trial itself had been a media spectacle; the lawyers, the witnesses, even the defendant had become media icons in the commercialism of the twenties.  The trial itself was set up to be a media demonstration to challenge the constitutionality of the butler act.  This act prohibited the teaching of “any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man as taught in the bible,” and in particular, the theory of evolution.  the American civil libe...   [tags: American America History]

Free Essays
998 words (2.9 pages)

Monkey See, Monkey Do Essay

- ... She mentions another case where people took a scene from a movie called Natural Born Killers, which is known for having the most crimes being committed inspired by a movie. In this case, a boyfriend and girlfriend who murdered a man of the name Bill Savage. They were said to have watched the movie repeatedly and then went on a killing spree. Although they viewed the video multiple times, there must have been some sort of mental sickness for the two teenagers to commit an act like this. It will never be proven that the movie was truly responsible but you have to wonder, if the movie weren’t made, would Bill Savage be dead right now....   [tags: exposure to violence in media today]

Research Papers
751 words (2.1 pages)

Essay on Religion Versus Science in The Scopes Monkey Trial

- Religion Versus Science in The Scopes Monkey Trial     The stage was set in Dayton, Tennessee.  The leading actor in this show was a twenty five-year-old science teacher named John T. Scopes. Scopes was under the direction of advancing America.  The playbill read The Scopes “Monkey” Trial.  In 1925 John T. Scopes was encouraged to challenge the Butler Law.  This law had been passed by a small town in Dayton, Tennessee to prohibit teaching contra to those in the Bible. Teaching from an evolutionary text, Scopes broke the law and gained the attention of the National media.  The concentration of the media on the Scopes Trial effectively presented the contrasting ideas of a religious town and...   [tags: American America History]

Free Essays
879 words (2.5 pages)

Essay about Scopes Monkey Trial

- I think the Scopes trial brought together a great cast of characters: three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan; America's best defense attorney, Clarence Darrow: and its most popular journalist, H. L. Mencken. It was a trial about ideas, a contest between traditionalism, the faith of our fathers, and modernism, the idea that we test faith with our intellect. And it had what the New York Times called the most memorable event in Anglo-Saxon court history: Darrow's calling of William Jennings Bryan, the prosecutor, to the stand and examining him on his interpretation of the Bible....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
515 words (1.5 pages)

Essay on The Monkey Garden

- The Monkey Garden The Monkey Garden by Sandra Cisneros tells the story of a young girl’s loss of childhood innocence. The story is narrated by a mature woman remembering her initiation into adolescence through the images and events that occurred in an unused neighborhood lot. She is not ready to mature into adolescence and uses her imagination to transform the lot into a fantasy garden--a place where she can hide from the adult world. The garden is the vehicle in which the narrator reveals her reluctance to leave behind the imaginary world of childhood and see the realities of the adult world....   [tags: Monkey]

Research Papers
669 words (1.9 pages)

Related Searches

      At this point the media was already involved.  The Chattanooga Times was
contacted and six other newspapers(including one from New York) were interested before
Rappleyea even responded to the ACLU request.  When William Jennings Bryan and
Clarence Darrow were named as prosecution and defense(respectively), other major
newspapers began to take interest.  These included the Baltimore Sun, the New York
Times, the London Times, the St. Louis Dispatch, and the Philadelphia Inquirer (Scopes
and Presley 94).  When the trial actually convened, the town of Dayton was flooded with
reporters, writers, and spectators.  The attorneys involved used electronic microphones for the first time as the proceedings of the trial were broadcasted on the radio.  Vendors even sold hot dogs, lemonade, and books on evolution and religion to the masses gathered outside the courthouse.

      This type of coverage on a trial was unprecedented, and that is the main
reason we arrived at our research question.  The media took this chance to showcase the
most controversial issues of the time.  The first and most general of these is Modernism
versus Traditionalism.

      One of the numerous factors that contributed to forming this conflict was
the sense of fear many Americans were experiencing at the time.  This was a fear of
change and radical ideology that was beginning to surface in society.  A British writer who had visited America described this fear:

 America since the first World War has been the prey of multiple terror: fear of the
 European alien, the Negro, the Asiatic; of Radicalism, Labor, Bolshevism.
 Harassed by the prophets of woe, scared by the hundred-headed demon of
 propaganda, the good American conceives a dread of every sort of modernism.
 And in Tennessee, he is at the moment taking it out of an English avatar of
 Anti-christ - Charles Darwin. (De Camp 17)

    This fear was demonstrated in many of the other presentation topics.  It was definitely present in the Scopes case, too.  Traditional, fundamentalist doctrine was being challenged by modern, scientific thought.  Concrete evidence of evolution’s validity was beginning to make Bible teaching foolish and archaic.  I believe the media enjoyed exposing these ideas as a mechanism for making changes in American society.

      The next conflict to be examined is Fundamentalism(religion) versus
Evolution.  This conflict is probably the most relevant of the three to the Scopes case.
The trial came at a time when the traditionalists in society were becoming increasingly
fearful of the theory of Evolution because it was gaining support and momentum around
the country.  Scientists were compiling more and more conclusive evidence as illustrated
by De Camp: “By 1925, new discoveries of early men had begun to flow in from Africa”
(22).  Along with this increase in concrete proof of Evolution, there was concurrently
more criticism of fundamentalism appearing.  Many members of the media including H.L.
Mencken and Stewart Cole criticized teaching the Bible’s ideas of creation in schools (De
Camp 25).  With the presence of Bryan and Darrow, the Scopes trial put these ideas of
religion versus evolution on center stage.

      The third and final societal  conflict illustrated in the Scopes case was city
versus country.  The census taken in 1920 showed city people outnumbered country
people for the first time (De Camp 18).  Also, industry was rapidly growing every day.
The long standing power of farming and agriculture was giving way to the big business of
industries like auto and radio.  America was quickly becoming more urban on a daily basis. The media explosion in Dayton demonstrates this point very well.  In a sense, the media was bringing Dayton to the rest of the world, but more importantly, the media brought the world(and all of its urbanization) to Dayton.

      The significance of this research question lies in the fact that without the
media, this trial would have taken place and may have been forgotten.  However, thanks
to all the extensive coverage, a turning point in American society was magnified and
basically broadcasted to the world.  The trial’s importance as a turning point is still
recognized today and is expertly characterized by Lynn Dumenil: “The trial is also
important for the way in which it highlighted a polarization - not just in religion but in American culture.  The presence of Bryan and Darrow set the contrast between devout
and doubter, but also between country and city, between anti-modernist and modernist”
(190).  Like other trials of the century, such as the Simpson or Clinton impeachment trials, the Scopes case would not have been as popular or have had such monumental effects without the help of the media.
Works Cited

Allen, Leslie.  Bryan and Darrow at Dayton: The Record and Documents of the “Bible
 Evolution Trial”.  New York: Arthur Lee and Co., 1925.
De Camp, Sprague.  The Great Monkey Trial.  New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc.,  1968.
Dumenil, Lynn.  The Modern Temper.  New York: Hill and Wang, 1995.
Ginger, Ray.  Six Days or Forever?.  London: Oxford University Press, 1958.
Scopes, John, and Presley, James.  Center of the Storm.  New York: Holt, Rhinehart and
 Winston, 1967.
Return to