by: Sinclair Lewis

Chapters 13–15

Still, Martin has had enough patients that he and Leora believe they can buy a car for his country house calls. They buy a five-year-old Ford, after which Martin receives his first night call from one Henry Novak. Novak is calling because his daughter Mary is very ill and seems to have the croup. Martin leaves straight away but gets lost on his way there. When he finally arrives he has to leave again for another town to be able to secure a diphtheria antitoxin. When he returns to the house, the girl is still alive but dies while under his care. The town loses faith in him, and Martin is himself distraught. Having no one to turn to but Leora (who is as supportive as ever), he visits Dr. Adam Winter, in the neighboring town of Leopolis. Dr. Winter suggests that next time he should get a second opinion from another doctor so that the blame does not fall solely on his shoulder's and so that the people know that he did all he could do. Dr. Winter also promises to talk to the newspaper. The newspaper prints a story praising Martin's efforts as a doctor, and the town regains its trust in him, even Henry Novak comes around.


When Lewis describes the companies with which Gottlieb has secured positions, he is at his most satirical, using the companies in order to expose the commercialism and corruptions with the medical world of the early twentieth century. For example, Mr. Hunziker, of the Hunziker company in Pittsburgh says: "We like to make money, of we can do it honestly, but our chief purpose is to serve mankind." This statement is pure hypocrisy and also pure satire, given that this man is the president of the same company that is selling a fraudulent cancer treatment, along with their other antitoxins and vaccines. The language that Lewis gives to the heads of the laboratories and companies is pure business jargon, full of the salesmen's half-truths. The Hunziker Company is using Gottlieb, taking him while he is at a low point and then waiting until he can produce something for them which they can then sell. This is evidenced by the fact that as soon as Gottlieb discovers something, Hunziker applies constant pressure on him so that the company may put out and sell what he has discovered. The company is not concerned, as Gottlieb is, with the importance of perfecting such important processes in science. They are not concerned, as Gottlieb is, with understanding.

Later, when Dr. Tubbs of the McGurk Institute (which is Lewis' version of the Rockefeller Institute) calls, he also uses the selling language that Hunziker had used and, with an altruistic air, claims: "Mr. McGurk and I desire nothing but the advancement of science," which the reader later realizes is not truly all the institute desires. Furthermore, it becomes apparent that in order to survive in the world of scientific research, everyone must align him or herself with one of these institutes, even a man as brilliant as Max Gottlieb, no matter how much he despises such institutions.

Also of significance in these three chapters are Martin's own struggles, his beginnings as a doctor. It becomes apparent that Martin needs his freedom and that he feels suffocated under the wings of Leora's family. This is not to say that Martin is altogether independent because he desperately needs Leora and her undying support. It is to say, however, that Martin needs his space. And, interestingly enough, when Martin is able to attain his first space—the shack he has rented from Wise the Polack and has turned into an office—the first thing he says is that he is going to build a test tube rack "of his own." Moreover, when left to his own will, Martin always turns back to research. The test tubes, of course, symbolize that other side of science (the laboratory) that he so misses.

Aside from Lewis's satire of the medical world, he also attacks small-town America through the vessel of Wheatsylvania and its citizens. Wheatsylvania is a town that holds its head high preaching ethics and then turns around to turn the wheels of gossip and arrogant, and often ignorant, righteousness. This critique of American life is one of the things for which Sinclair Lewis is best known.