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Arrowsmith

Sinclair Lewis

Chapters 16–18

Chapters 13–15

Chapters 19–21

Summary

Chapter 16

Life in Wheatsylvania has its ups and downs until one day, quite by accident, Martin is made a local hero. He decides to go fishing, and on his way he passes a farmhouse out of which a woman runs to him screaming that her baby is choking. Martin performs an emergency surgery with the tools he has readily available and saves the child's life. After this success, the entire town entrusts Martin, and Martin even cures the village's hypochondriac, Agnes Ingleblad. Meanwhile, Bert becomes a town "booster," trying to advertise and praise his home town of Wheatsylvania in everyway possible.

Martin, although it had been said in previous chapters that he had acquired enemies, also acquired friends. He played poker with and talked to the barber, the editor of the Eagle, and the garageman. However, his gambling and drinking with these men was seen in a negative light by the people of the town, and they began to call him a "drinking man" and a "gambler."

Martin begins to feel frustrated since he has no one to talk to about work except Leora. Eventually, he goes to visit Dr. Hesselink, of Groningen because he thinks they will be able to have professional conversations as he had had in medical school. However, Hesselink is content with his life and does not relate to Martin. It is about this time that Martin decides that he is "half- educated" and must further educate himself and Leora and, therefore, goes about reading Conrad and others in order to learn.

Also in this chapter, Martin discovers Gustaf Sondelius, a speaker and one- man army against disease, whose philosophy Martin begins to align himself with.

Leora becomes pregnant and, sadly, has a miscarriage.

Chapter 17

Dr. Coughlin of Leopolis and another doctor, Dr. Tromp, are seen talking. Their conversation turns and ends up on the topic of "Martin Arrowsmith of Wheatsylvania." They begin by saying he is intelligent but end by talking of his drinking and his lack of attendance at church. Bert hears about how Dr. Coughlin is speaking of Martin and informs him.

Following, there is an incident of blackleg among the cattle in Cryssen County. Martin isolates the problem and takes it upon himself to prepare a vaccine since the Hunziker vaccine had failed. Martin succeeds in stopping the black leg but the veterinarians and doctors claim he is a "notoriety seeker," and the doctors claim that it is wrong for a doctor to turn to cattle.

Martin discovers that Sondelius is lecturing in Minneapolis and decides to go. Sondelius turns out to be an eloquent speaker, and Martin decides to invite him to have a couple of drinks with him after his lecture. Sondelius agrees, and the two men have a good time talking and drinking, after which Martin finds himself a greater follower than ever of Sondelius.

Chapter 18

Martin offers, because of his newfound interest in Sondelius's crusade on public health and disease, himself to Dr. Woestijne, the Superintendent of Health for Cryssen County. He does the work for half the pay and goes about adamantly seeking out epidemics and disease. He hears about a typhoid epidemic in the community at Delft and begins to map out the cases in order to come to some sort of conclusion. He discovers that the carrier of the typhoid is a hygienic spinster seamstress, and he wants to isolate her and examine her. The seamstress and the town are insulted and believe that he is wrong. However, when the County Board of Health calls in Dr. Hesselink, Dr. Hesselink confirms Martin's diagnosis.

Leora saves him from the town's resentment when she has the idea of collecting funds for the seamstress so that they may send her away to a good and large hospital to be cured. After his success with the typhoid case, Martin goes about searching out other epidemics and claims that there is a small pox outbreak in a nearby village. Martin is wrong and ridiculed endlessly by the townspeople.

When the town does not seem to abandon their jokes at Martin's expense, Martin decides he has to leave and that he has to start over somewhere else. He writes to Sondelius and asks him if he knows of any openings in the realm of public health. Sondelius helps him and, with the help of three recommendations (one from Silva, one from Sondelius, and one from Gottlieb) Martin attains a position in Public Health under Dr. Almus Pickerbaugh, in the town of Nautilus. Martin is optimistic about Nautilus.

Analysis

Lewis continues his critique of small-town America throughout these chapters. First, there is the humorous section about Bert Tozer's new self-induced role as town "booster," a particularly "American idea." Lewis illustrates it as a kind of senseless pride, pointing to the uselessness of advertising one's own town within one's own town (a notion, which appropriately, is worthy of satire). And so the character of Bert, who has been annoying from the start, becomes even more laughable with his new insistence on displaying town pennants on every car, an idea that spreads throughout the town. In fact, Martin seems to be the only one who finds this ridiculous.

Furthermore, there is the character of Gustaf Sondelius who seems particularly American, even though he is a Swede. And yet the fact that he is a Swede does not seem to make null the previous statement especially within the American world that Lewis creates. For example, by the second page of the novel, the narrator says that Martin was a "typical Pure-bred Anglo-Saxon American, which means that he was a union of German, French, Scotch, Irish, perhaps a little Spanish, conceivably a little of the strains lumped together as "Jewish," and a great deal of English, which is itself a combination of primitive Briton, Celt, Phoenician, Roman, German, Dane, and Swede." In short, America is a place of mixture. And Sondelius with his verbal eloquence and manner of crusading around the world, against disease is both endearing and, at times, under Lewis' satire, quite comical. His name mimics the word "sound" in its prefix and calls further attention to his vociferous nature.

Sondelius is important because he becomes Martin's new hero and leads Martin toward Public Health. Martin is desperately in search of something to fill the void and ease his dissatisfaction. He cannot find what he is looking for among the townspeople of Wheatsylvania, and he cannot find it among the competitive and gossiping doctors that surround him. Even among the kind doctors, like Hesselink, Martin does not feel at home because Hesselink is content with his place in life. Martin, however, needs something else. He finds this "something else" in Sondelius's crusade, which leads him back to research and attention to detail in his attempts to root out typhoid and disease in his neighboring areas. Martin cannot help but find himself attracted to the laboratory, as is evident in the blackleg incident with the cattle. But it is obvious that Martin is out of place.

No matter what Martin does, he cannot seem to keep the people on his side, and it is perhaps because of that "bedside manner" that he never quite developed, as he had pointed out while interning at Zenith General. He feels he has failed, and he must start over, which is what the move to Nautilus is—a new beginning. Nautilus is a larger city than Wheatsylvania, which excites Martin, having felt trapped within the small town of Wheatsylvania. He has tried Dean Silva's methods as a country doctor, and now he will try Sondelius's in Public Health, under the eye of Dr. Pickerbaugh.

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