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Literature Study GuidesArrowsmithChapters 29 30 Summary

Arrowsmith | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Arrowsmith | Chapters 29–30 | Summary



Chapter 29

After six weeks of working on Principle X, rumors begin to swirl that Martin Arrowsmith made a big discovery. Director Dr. A. DeWitt Tubbs asks him about it and is astounded that Martin has found a way to kill harmful bacteria. He immediately wants to go public. He tells Martin he'll become a department head, get a big raise, and have all the best assistants for his research. Though Martin doesn't feel ready to publish, and despite Max Gottlieb's attempts to intervene, Martin unhappily begins to write a paper.

Martin begins to come around to the idea that he might enjoy having a nicer apartment and being respected by important people. Just as he's beginning to look forward to fame, Gottlieb informs him that another researcher named D'Herelle has already made the same discovery. Martin decides he will still publish, to corroborate the findings. But he will not be famous for the discovery. He feels let down but also grateful he did not have to go to press with half-finished research.

Chapter 30

In Part 1 Martin toils along with experiments using the X Principle, which he now calls "phage." Terry Wickett comes back from the war. After about a year Tubbs comes to see Martin and notes that D'Herelle's discovery isn't getting as much notice as it should. He wants Martin to study how the phage can be used to heal real illnesses like pneumonia, typhoid, and even the plague. Martin starts doing this work and is fairly successful. Meanwhile Tubbs gets involved with an organization called the League of Cultural Agencies and eventually resigns to work for the league.

In Part 2 Gottlieb is promoted to fill Tubbs's position. Wickett and Martin worry that Gottlieb will become just like the others now that he has more prestige. In Part 3 a dinner is given to honor Gottlieb. In Part 4 the institute begins to decline. Gottlieb can't do much research because of all his new commitments. He is miserable and doesn't attend well to administrative matters. Gustaf Sondelius shows up at the institute and begins spending time with Martin and Wickett. In Part 5 Martin keeps working with the phage and finds a way to use it to cure the plague. Gottlieb, Wickett, and Sondelius are encouraging and helpful. Sondelius becomes Martin's assistant as he continues his plague experiments.


In these chapters Martin Arrowsmith continues to struggle with the temptation of wealth and prestige. To characterize the nature of the struggle as a moral one, Sinclair Lewis uses biblical imagery. Matthew 4 contains the story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Verses 8 and 9 read, "Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, 'All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.'" In the novel Dr. A. DeWitt Tubbs plays the part of Satan, tempting Martin: Tubbs "led him to a mountain top and showed him all the kingdoms of the world." Tubbs tells Martin he'll double his salary, give him all the assistants he wants, and create a new Department of Microbic Pathology, with Martin as department head. Martin will have a big new office and no other duties. The text says Martin is "dazzled by the view of a department of his own, assistants, a cheering world—and ten thousand a year."

Martin seems to come through the temptation intact, but only just. He sees that if he took Tubbs's offer, he'd lose his sense of self, his connection to his work, and his identity as Max Gottlieb's disciple. He sees that success is like a demonic influence: "He perceived the horror of the shrieking bawdy thing called Success, with its demand that he give up quiet work and parade forth." Yet, he envisions the better life he and Leora Arrowsmith would live with a better position and better salary. He's ultimately saved from giving in to temptation by chance or divine intervention. The well-known French scientist D'Herelle comes out with the discovery first. Martin can go back to being a scientist; the crisis is averted.

Martin continues to collect a band of true friends in these chapters, almost as if by accident. Gustaf Sondelius shows up for no real reason. Terry Wickett returns from France, bringing his "rough compulsion to honesty" back into Martin's life. Gottlieb, Wickett, and Sondelius encourage Martin and aid him. They are an antidote to the Tubbs' influence. They do not care about credit; they just love the work.

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