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Literature Study GuidesArrowsmithChapters 11 12 Summary

Arrowsmith | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Arrowsmith | Chapters 11–12 | Summary



Chapter 11

Part 1 opens as a factory in Zenith is burning. Policemen and firefighters do their jobs professionally. Dr. Martin Arrowsmith heroically treats those who are injured on the scene.

In Part 2 readers learn Martin is one of six interns at Zenith General Hospital; Angus Duer is also one of the six. Martin finds it challenging to develop a bedside manner. He enjoys his work best when he is outside of the hospital and among the residents of the city, from bankers to prostitutes. He enjoys his place in society. However, late at night when he is alone, he thinks about Professor Max Gottlieb and is "homesick for the laboratory." This longing grows as he enters his second year as an intern. Just before he moves on to Wheatsylvania he actually runs into the man. Gottlieb is polite, but his eyes ask, "Why have you never come back to me?" Martin stammers but makes no real reply and subsequently tells Leora Arrowsmith he still admires the man. They move to Wheatsylvania, and Martin begins his practice.

Chapter 12

Part 1 reveals that Gottlieb has fallen on hard times and recaps Gottlieb's career to show how accomplished he has been. Part 2 describes Gottlieb's wife and three children. Part 3 reveals that Gottlieb did actually like Martin as a student and thought he would do great things. He'd seen that Martin was drinking too much and that it was affecting his work. He'd been harsh but didn't intend for Martin to leave school. Eventually, he'd stopped waiting for Martin to come back and hired a new assistant.

In Part 4 readers learn that Gottlieb had hoped to found a medical school based only on science. Furthermore, he wanted to establish it at Winnemac. This did not go over well, and he has been let go from the university. His only prospect is to teach physics and chemistry in a high school. Then his wife, Mrs. Gottlieb, becomes ill, and he calls Dean Silva to diagnose her, though this is a hard pill for him to swallow. She is admitted to the hospital for several weeks, and Gottlieb takes care of the house and the three children. Taking a walk, he runs into Martin and Leora and wonders whether it is Leora who "stole Martin from ... science." The next day, he inquires about the high school job. Unfortunately, the man from the hiring agency is aware that he was fired and treats him rudely. The agency refuses to give him the position. He has no prospects.


The first part of Chapter 11 is a satirical description of the heroic young doctor figure at the fire—here embodied in Martin Arrowsmith. He is called "The Doctor" and is described as "haughty in white uniform, nonchalant on a narrow seat." He is admired by the crowds and respected by the police officers there. Even the newspaper reporter, the "most cynical man in the world," is polite to Martin. With the ambulance driver, he commands the city, driving without regard to traffic laws. At the hospital he is calm as he goes from emergency case to emergency case. Overall, Martin is having a grand time. He feels he is really living life, and every day is exciting.

But there is still a part of Martin that longs for a different life. Even as he heroically goes about his job at the hospital, he glimpses the flasks and test tubes of the hospital laboratory and feels a little sad. He remembers for a moment the way he felt when he was working with Max Gottlieb and spending all those hours in the lab. As the chapter moves on, Martin grows increasingly nostalgic for his time as Gottlieb's student. He longs for the lab and misses the person he was when he was pursuing pure science rather than medical practice: "he was homesick ... for the thrill of uncharted discoveries, the quest below the surface and beyond the moment." Despite the social status of physicians, to Martin the "search for fundamental laws" is more important than healing individual patients. His chance meeting with Gottlieb brings these longings to a head.

In Chapter 12 the novel jumps back in time to give some additional information on Gottlieb and explain what's been happening with him since Martin got married. It is clear that he is a gifted scientist. But he is not a practical person, and he isn't very good at getting along with others. Gottlieb's desire to found a scientific school of medicine isn't just philosophically at odds with the other professors at Winnemac—it is seen as disloyal. A more socially adept man might have been able to bring the rest of the faculty around. This incident also reveals an underlying tension in the world of medicine. Gottlieb wants doctors to be trained scientifically, so they can root out the causes of disease instead of simply treating symptoms.

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