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Lewis Sinclair's Arrowsmith

A novel by Sinclair Lewis

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A recognizably modern and realistically three-dimensional character

  • Nov 26, 2011
Rating:
+3

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 just a doctor, but a Scientist.  Throughout his career, he alternates between serving the public as a doctor and public health administrator, all the while hating himself for "selling out" to peddle nostrums and unscientific cures, and "pure Science" of the always-capitalized variety, where he assumes an unlikable arrogance and disdain for anyone who doesn't see the value of this lofty ambition, clearly to him the only perfect life even when he is unable to achieve or sustain it.

As Martin careens from disappointed bitterness to arrogant disdain Lewis uses the journey to talk much about the world of the mind and its place in American professional, personal, cultural, and social spheres.  Martin, like Lewis in real life, is cynical, disappointed in his imperfections, restless in his ambitions, agnostic in his religion, socially reclusive in his tendencies, and thoughtful in his actions.  As we see his life through Lewis's omniscient eyes, he is sometimes but not often likable, and usually but not always explicable.  Martin Arrowsmith, in short, is recognizably modern and realistically three-dimensional, so that even his unlikable bits seem to us as facets of a person that we probably have known in our lives.  

It is hard to really love a Lewis novel, given that acerbic and bitter tendency that so often drives the relentless progress of the drama and humor in his writing.  So, I shade this one a notch under a classic, but very much worth the time to read.

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November 26, 2011
Great review, thanks for sharing :)
 
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More Arrowsmith reviews
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 …
review by . June 19, 2009
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 …
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Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #36
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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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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