Arrowsmithby Sinclair Lewis
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Harry Sinclair Lewis (7th February, 1885 – 10th January, 1951) was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930 "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters." Whilst an accurate description of his writing it misses the tone and central theme of his work which is clearer from his own words in accepting the Prize: “America is the most contradictory, the most depressing, the most stirring, of any land in the world today” and on American literary establishment: "Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead." Lewis was no stranger to literary prizes as Arrowsmith, regarded as his best novel, won the 1926 Pullitzer Prize. More unusually, he refused to accept the Prize stating that the criteria to represent the highest standard of “the wholesome atmosphere of American Life” was meaningless. As Arrowsmith was a social commentary on the contemporary state of medicine and as Lewis was a satirist of modern America the Prize was not welcome. Although the protagonist is a scientific researcher another main character is a small town doctor as Lewis’s father had been. The book describes many aspects of medical training and practise, scientific research that benefits mankind, ethics, integrity, dedication, selfless devotion to the care of patients as well as greed, self deception, stupidity, and the attraction for power, wealth, security and recognition. It has inspired generations of med students round the world and a 1931 Hollywood movie directed by John Ford and nominated for four Oscars. However, it is widely agreed that the original work contained here is the best way to sample the author that many claim has had a greater impact on modern American life than Hemingway, Fitzgerald or Faulkner
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Meet the Author
Harry Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951) was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, the son of a country doctor. After graduating from Yale in 1907, he went to New York, tried freelance work for a time, and then worked in a variety of editorial positions from the East Coast to California. Main Street (1920) was his first successful novel. In the decade that followed, Lewis published four other acclaimed novels of social criticism—Babbitt (1922), Arrowsmith (1925), Elmer Gantry (1927), and Dodsworth (1929). In 1930 he became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for literature. He continued to write both novels and plays for another two decades, publishing his last work, World So Wide (1951), shortly before his death in Rome.
Sally E. Parry is Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, and Director of General Education at Illinois State University. She is currently the Executive Director of the Sinclair Lewis Society and editor of the Sinclair Lewis Society Newsletter. She has edited two collections of short stories by Sinclair Lewis, Go East, Young Man: Sinclair Lewis on Class in America (2005) and The Minnesota Stories of Sinclair Lewis (2005), and with Robert L. McLaughlin, written We’ll Always Have the Movies: American Cinema During World War II (2006).
E. L. Doctorow is one of America’s preeminent men of letters. His novels include The Waterworks, Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, Lives of the Poets, Billy Bathgate, and Welcome to Hard Times. His work has garnered the National Book Critics Circle Award twice, the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, and the William Dean Howells medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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'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.
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.
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-
Of course, this a great book. But, this NOOK edition is grossly defective in that much of the punctuation is absent. Lewis' elegant sentences, laced with descriptive phrases, become difficult to read with omitted commas, dashes, and other punctuation which are present in the original and also in another NOOK edition.