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Posted July 21, 2006
'Arrowsmith' follows the life of a man by that name. He is a doctor who discovers what he calls the X Principle, and what another terms 'Bacteriophage.' His wife does from the plague when he attempts to experiment with phage to heal people with the bubonic disease so famous from the Medieval Ages. While things fall apart for Martin, other people prosper. It is interesting to read about the characters who influence Martin Arrowsmith, especially the rejected intellectual Dr. Gottlieb.
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Posted April 30, 2005
The novel ARROWSMITH begins with one third of a page not obviously related to what follows. We are shown a turning point in the life of Martin Arrowsmith's 14 year old grandmother Emmy. The family is migrating west by wagon through Ohio. Emmy's mother has just been buried. The ailing father begs his daughter to break off and head south to Cincinnati where his brother might give them refuge. The girl assumes charge of her family including noisy, tattered siblings and declares that no one will take them in, adding, 'Going West. They's a whole lot of new things I aim to be seeing.'*** Does the life of Martin Arrowsmith replicate great grandmother Emmy's? Where is he heading? What are his temptations to stray?*** We meet Martin, in 1897, a bright boy, aged 14. He hangs around the local small town doctor in Elk Mills, mythical midwestern State of Winnemac. Martin awes his friends by bandaging bruises and dissecting squirrels. Later he went to college and prepared to become a doctor. In medical school he is tempted by competing role models among students and teachers. He oscillated between a future as a consciously upwardly mobile, prosperous, leisured M.D. or a single-minded researcher into the root causes of ill health. The German Jewish professor and bacteriologist Max Gottlieb preached an unrelenting gospel of science, objectivity and mastery of detail. Martin's fellow medical student Terry Wickett will reinforce that creed at various times in Arrowsmith's future. *** Martin Arrowsmith was an ordinary American: anything but a Renaissance man, but with boundless curiosity and a willingness to work hard at something once he believed in it--which in the end proved to be basic scientific research in a celibate male community of two in backwoods Vermont. Martin Arrowsmith had two wives: Leora, the first, demanded only marital fidelity, got it from him and in return supported him selflessly and unobtrusively wherever his often shifting goals carried them. To Chicago. To New York. Their only child was still born. Leora died on the Caribbean isle where Martin was heroically combatting and researching plague. Recently widowed Joyce, by contrast, the second and very wealthy Mrs Arrowsmith, he had met and dallied with during the plague. Their marriage produced one son and a moderate amount of reasonable efforts by Joyce to help her husband acquire social graces, learn to relax and to cool his passion for pure totally absorbing research.*** In the end Arrowsmith is persuaded that pure research into disease is what he is meant to do. And a wife and child are not merely irrelevant but too time consuming and distracting from his destined goal. He therefore abandons family and joins his old friend and Socratic gadfly Terry Wickett to do celibate science in a primitive woodsy cottage in New England. They envision expanding to a like-minded community of no more than eight males.*** That is the tale of MARTIN ARROWSMITH, by some accounts the most widely read novel of Sinclair Lewis. -OOO-
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Posted December 10, 2013
Some novels read like a movie, others like poetry, Arrowsmith is a symphony in prose. As a great admirer of Hemingway and Steinbeck I was challenged into sticking with Main Street and then Arrowsmith; in the end I enjoyed the books tremendously.
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Posted March 16, 2009
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Posted March 15, 2009
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