Arrowsmith / by Sinclair Lewis

Posted on December 10, 2012. Filed under: Fiction | Tags: , , |

book cover for ArrowsmithArrowsmith
by Sinclair Lewis

The protagonist of Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith is Martin Arrowsmith, a young man with an all-consuming drive to conduct scientific research.  As we follow Arrowsmith from boyhood onward, this self-involved and measurably rebellious character from a fictional Midwestern state seeks to satisfy the itch that preoccupies most of his waking hours: the desire to conduct “pure” scientific research.  After a falling out with his venerated mentor in medical school, the brilliant German-Jewish bacteriologist Max Gottlieb, Arrowsmith roams the country, intent on finding his niche in early 19th-century America.  Given to occasional bouts of carousing, drinking, and worldly temptations, he eventually follows his sweetheart, Leora, to North Dakota. He later becomes a mere cog in the wheel at a Chicago health clinic, and finally lands at a prestigious research institute in Manhattan alongside the still-cantankerous Max Gottlieb before shipping off to a plague-stricken island in the West Indies.

What’s remarkable about Arrowsmith is its across-the-board portrayal of American life in the 1920s:  from his vivid descriptions of the Midwestern rusticus to East-coast urbanity, Lewis Sinclair’s satirical character dialogues set Martin Arrowsmith apart from his often petty, social ladder-climbing, and money-obsessed contemporaries.  Although no angel himself, Martin Arrowsmith’s intellectual integrity and respect for the scientific method make him an unlikely American icon.

One of the first novels to deal with the science culture, Sinclair Lewis’ novel Arrowsmith won the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, which Lewis refused to accept.

— posted by Russ K.

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