Showing 1 - 2 of 2 annotations associated with Lewis, Sinclair
Martin Arrowsmith is from a tiny mid-western town. He goes to college and then to medical school in the largest town in the state. He begins to worship Gottlieb, Professor of Bacteriology, one of the few professors who is devoted to pure science instead of lucrative practice. Martin becomes Gottlieb’s assistant and annoys his professors and friends by constantly talking about methodology. He is engaged to Madeline, a rather dull graduate student in English. When he meets Leora, a nurse, he breaks his engagement to Madeline. Martin grows disenchanted with his career, leaves school, and wanders around the midwest. Finally, he marries Leora and returns to school. Now, however, he becomes a disciple of the Dean, Silva, whose science is much less precise and who is devoted to making people comfortable at all costs.
Martin sets up practice after graduation in Leora’s home town. The Swedish and German farmers find him invasive and unwilling to cater to their small-town expectations. When Martin misdiagnoses a case of smallpox, he is forced to leave town. He has by then found a new hero, Gustave Sondelius, who fights plagues abroad and returns to America to lecture. Sondelius finds him a job in a larger town as an assistant to Dr. Almus Pickerbaugh, Director of Public Health. Pickerbaugh writes popular poems against sidewalk spitting and alcohol but does little else. The town loves him. He becomes a senator and Martin takes over the department. He quickly makes enemies of the very people Sondelius pleased. He also returns to research. Between annoying the upper crust with his brusqueness and annoying the farmers by closing their diseased dairies, he is soon drummed out of town.
He is then hired as a pathologist at the Rouncefield Clinic, where he does meaningless, repetitive work. His old mentor, Gottlieb, saves him by getting him a position at the McGurk Institute in New York. The Institute is very rich and gives scientists a chance to work without the interruption of patients or a need for practical application. Martin returns to Gottlieb’s principles and discovers a cure for bubonic plague. The Institute, which is not free from economic interests, sends him off to the tropical island of St. Hubert to test his material and save the population.
Martin is determined to conduct a controlled trial. When his wife and Sondelius both die of the plague, however, he injects everyone, saves the island, and returns to New York. Gottlieb has dementia and can neither blame nor forgive Martin for his lack of scientific aplomb. Martin marries an heiress and briefly lives the rich life he always dreamed of, but finds that his new wife will not let him work. Finally, he joins a friend who has built a laboratory in Vermont and happily returns to research.
- Aull, Felice
This novel was inspirational for several generations of pre-medical and medical students. It follows the hero, Martin Arrowsmith, from his days as a medical student through the vicissitudes of his medical/scientific career. There is much agonizing along the way concerning career and life decisions. While detailing Martin’s pursuit of the noble ideals of medical research for the benefit of mankind and of selfless devotion to the care of patients, Lewis throws many less noble temptations and self-deceptions in Martin’s path. The attractions of financial security, recognition, even wealth and power distract Arrowsmith from his original plan to follow in the footsteps of his first mentor, Max Gottlieb, a brilliant but abrasive bacteriologist.
In the course of the novel Lewis describes many aspects of medical training, medical practice, scientific research, scientific fraud, medical ethics, public health, and of personal/professional conflicts that are still relevant today. Professional jealousy, institutional pressures, greed, stupidity, and negligence are all satirically depicted, and Martin himself is exasperatingly self-involved. But there is also tireless dedication, and respect for the scientific method and intellectual honesty.
Martin’s wife, Leora, is the steadying, sensible, self-abnegating anchor of his life. In today’s Western culture it is difficult to imagine such a marital relationship between two professionals (she is a nurse). When Leora dies in the tropics, of the plague that Martin is there to study, he seems to lose all sense of himself and of his principles. The novel comes full circle at the end as Arrowsmith gives up his wealthy second wife and the high-powered, high-paying directorship of a research institute to go back to hands-on laboratory research.