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Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis

Arrowsmith (1925)

by Sinclair Lewis

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We know more about appropriate research than was known in 1924, but arguments about the motives behind science and the fallibility of science and scientists remain. This discussion is perhaps the strongest aspect of this book.

It is good that Arrowsmith and Wickett were able to devote themselves to science but sad that so much had to be personally sacrificed to do so. In the end it still doesn't feel as though Arrowsmith is happy- he lives in extremes and experiences satisfaction from time to time but not happiness. Even so, it is easier to sympathize with him than with the social climbers and some other types that are also present in this book. It is interesting that Arrowsmith is able to realize that he's kind of a jerk to his wife, but he can't seem to help himself. Another interesting topic was the effect of gossip and the attempt so show examples against racism, classism, and jumping on the bandwagon.

Overall this was a mixed reading experience. It was generally worthwhile but not exactly satisfying. ( )
  karmiel | Aug 20, 2015 |
An innovative doctor reaps the rewards of a discovery, but suffers along the way and returns to the life he actually had all along. A wonderful read. One of my favorite authors. ( )
1 vote JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
Martin Arrowsmith is a medical student at the beginning of the 20th century. The Pulitzer-prize-winning novel follows his journal through school, two engagements, marriage, a job as a small town doctor and his pursuit to research cures for different strains of bacteria. Lewis has a distinct skill for writing about the inner workings of a small town life and the inherent pressures that go hand-in-hand with it. He was from a small Midwestern town and so he understood how they worked.

The frustration that many students feel when they take a job straight out of school is the same now as it was 100 years ago. They are idealistic and believe they will change the world, and then they are confronted with the unavoidable mundane aspects of the “real world.” They must deal with people they dislike and they have to face the prospect of doing the same thing every single day. Everyone reacts differently to this prospect, but most people have a hard time letting a few of their dreams go in order to make a difference on a smaller scale.

There is a lot of humor in the book. The scenes with Pickerbaugh, a local doctor who Martin works with, are particularly hilarious. He has a huge family and is obsessed with spreading information about personal health care. Martin quickly realizes he can’t stand him and he’s terrified he’ll become like him if he stays in that job.

As Martin vacillates between the pull of a steady job and income and the desire to pursue his research dream he is tempted by many things. A young woman named Orchid catches his eye, and then the possibility of a higher rank and power at his institution attracts him. Lewis did a great job laying out many of life’s temptations and chronicling Arrowsmith’s battle against them.

The book is truly about one man’s journey to find himself and his purpose in the world of medical research, but the heart of the book is Leora. She keeps him grounded, she gives him purpose. I do think she’s a man’s version of a perfect woman rather than a realized ad fleshed out character, but she is still interesting. Her relationship with Martin was the most interesting aspect of the book for me. There are moments when I just want to smack Martin for the way he treats her and takes her for granted. Her endless support is what keeps him going and yet he seldom acknowledges that. Martin’s other grounding force is his old professor, Max Gottlieb. He has always admired him and he aspires to become a researcher like him, but Martin puts Max on a pedestal and doesn’t try to connect with him as a real man.

The ending stumbled and faltered for me. It was almost as if Lewis was writing and writing and then realized at some point he would have to wrap things up and end the book. It didn’t mesh with the rest of the story and just felt contrived.

BOTTOM LINE: A long-winded look at one man’s struggle between his idealistic goals and the reality of being forced to conform to society’s standards. The plot loses its focused a couple times and that becomes tiresome. The main point is there, but at times it gets lost in the meandering observations of the writer.

“As he had never taught them to love him and follow him as a leader, they questioned, they argued long and easily on doorsteps, they cackled that he was drunk.” ( )
  bookworm12 | Oct 10, 2013 |
On July 9, 1949 I said: "Started Arrowsmith which isn't bad." On July 10 I said: "Read a lot in Arrowsmith today. Its record of the awful deadeningness of dreary American mediocrity is depressingly interesting. How it bites--until you get used to each place deadening and you wonder if there is any social human being who is the invigorating guy Lewis would like. The book is all right, in a way, I guess." On July 14 I said: "'Read a couple of chapters in Arrowsmith tonight. Not as interesting as it was." On July 15 I said: "Tonight read a couple of chapters in Arrowsmith: seems rather pointless and plotless." On July 16 I said: "Tonight finished Arrowsmith, which I found most unsatisfying. Towards the end it all seemed so contrived, false, artificial. Lewis paints everything at variance with his preference as so revolting, so incisively, that I sometimes find it hard to make the differentiation required when he tells of what Arrowsmith in his heroic times does and thinks. You, or I, don't know whether he's fooling or not. What our hero is doing seems to have elements of conformism and you think, all at once, Lewis'll rip the thing to pieces. Well, the book certainly lacked something and I hand it no accolades and I don't find Lewis's style especially admirable-though it's kind of nice--fast, incisive. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jun 3, 2013 |
The fictional life and growth of a doctor. A lot of the details still apply, and I know many doctors with similar anecdotes. A fine portrait of medical live in service to others. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 29, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sinclair Lewisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Spayd, Barbara GraceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stahl, Ben F.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The driver of the wagon swaying through forest and swamp of the Ohio wilderness was a ragged girl of fourteen.
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Men of measured merriment! Men of measured merriment! Damn the great executives, the men of measured merriment, damn the men with careful smiles, damn the men that run the shops, oh, damn their measured merriment, the men with measured merriment, oh, damn their measured merriment, and DAMN their careful smiles!
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0451526910, Mass Market Paperback)

As the son and grandson of physicians, Sinclair Lewis had a store of experiences and imparted knowledge to draw upon for Arrowsmith.Published in 1925, after three years of anticipation, the book follows the life of Martin Arrowsmith, a rather ordinary fellow who gets his first taste of medicine at 14 as an assistant to the drunken physician in his home town. It is Leora Tozer who makes Martin's life extraordinary. With vitality and love, she urges him beyond the confines of the mundane to risk answering his true calling as a scientist and researcher. Not even her tragic death can extinguish her spirit or her impact on Martin's life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:34 -0400)

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel recounts the story of a Midwestern physician who is forced to give up his profession due to the ignorance, corruption, and greed of society.

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