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Lewis Sinclair's Arrowsmith

A novel by Sinclair Lewis

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What you see is what you get

  • Jun 19, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+4

Harry Sinclair Lewis was a notorious dissenter (supporting progressive politicians and labor leaders) and skeptic (having deserted good manly Christianity), as well as, in his later life, an alcoholic who literally drank himself to death.
He was also an extremely successful writer, not only commercially, but also as the first American Nobel winner , and a Pulitzer fiction prize winner for this novel. However, being his difficult self, he rejected that honor, as it was awarded for depicting the wholesomeness of American life and similar such crap (which the good cultural Stalinists of the Western World were quite as good at inventing as the real fathers of Socialist Realism.)
Lewis is described, on the back cover, as a social chronicler and satirist of mid-Western American middle class life. That is quite an accurate label. One might call him Minnesota's Balzac.

And that is also why I can enjoy his books, but can't quite take him absolutely serious as a novelist. He is just too straightforward. What you see is what you get. He is explicit. He tells you what he talks about. There is no double meaning, no mystery, no depth. He is instructive and funny and thinks mostly the right thoughts (for my taste) and says the right things. He is surprisingly modern, what he observed in the 1920s is still quite up to date in many respects.
There is maybe one topic here in Arrowsmith that he would not have dared to treat in the way he did then, if he would write now: the hero is a medical researcher who works with animals, ie guinea pigs and monkeys etc; he talks about that in a way which shows that animal righters had not yet caught on to the lab practices.

Martin Arrowsmith is a medical student, then a hospital intern, then a general practitioner, then a public health official, then a researcher in a private lab, then an anti-epidemic warrior; his calling is the development of a treatment for plague, or the eradication of it, or in a broader sense, serious science with a practical value, but the man detests the commercial side of the health sector as much as the political side. He is an idealist and quite inflexible in his attitudes towards the corruption of his peers. His personal hero and role model is a German Jewish immigrant scientist, who ultimately gets beaten by the system by accepting promotion. Martin doesn't get beaten, but in order to be victorious, he has to behave abominably by most standards. In other words, a biography of a man who is in no way a hero, just an outsider. Arrowsmith achieves the happiness of insanity, from a `normal' point of view.

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June 19, 2009
Thanks for the review on this prolific writer....very interesting, indeed!
 
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More Arrowsmith reviews
review by . November 26, 2011
   Sinclair Lewis, by most biographical accounts, was an eccentric red-head with an acerbic and mercurial personality.  He is best known for his examinations of hucksterism in all walks of life:  small-town businessman (Babbit), populist religion (Elmer Gantry), and here medicine.        Martin Arrowsmith is a tightly-wound bright young man from Lewis's typical Midwest small town, who finds a spark of inspiration from a college professor to be not …
review by . September 06, 2011
Martin Arrowsmith enters med school in the early nineteen hundreds in the American Midwest.      We see the difficulty he has with medical and social issues, which friends to have and what clubs would be right for the future doctor. He goes through school with the ardor of a man pursuing his lifelong dream. When he takes a class on bacteriology, his lifelong dream of research is born.      Needing some relief from his studies he visits Zenith where he meets …
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Member Since: May 6, 2009
Last Login: Jul 4, 2009 01:36 AM UTC
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ISBN-10: 0451530861 (Signet pbk.)
ISBN-13: 9780451530868 (Signet pbk.)
Author: Sinclair Lewis
Genre: Fiction, Literature, Classic Fiction

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