It cannot be said, in this biography of a young man who was in no degree a hero, who regarded himself as a seeker after truth yet who stumbled and slid back all his life and bogged himself in every obvious morass, that Martin's intentions toward Madeleine Fox were what is called "honorable."
These are the opening lines to the third section of Chapter 5 and they carry with them a great deal of weight for many reasons. First, it sets the tone for much of the novel as well as setting up the novel as a bildungsroman. We are told that this is a biography and, thus, the story of one man's personal development—of one man's life; the life, in this case, of Martin Arrowsmith. Further, the quote carries with it some humor which sets up the satirical tone that the novel so often takes on. This is not to say that the novel is, as a whole, "funny," for it is not. It is simply a satire with its pieces of humor and its pieces of sharp wit.
Then there is the word "hero" to assess. Martin Arrowsmith is and is not a hero. A hero is someone who has to overcome great feats, who journeys, and who is courageous. All of this applies to Arrowsmith, who is, in fact a "seeker of truth." Nevertheless, he is not a "hero" in that he is not divine or pure or lacking faults. In fact, Martin is full of faults as is evidenced by this quote, as he is constantly falling into temptation and "stumbling," back and forth until the very end. Martin is, in short, a kind of modern hero.