Course Hero Logo

Arrowsmith | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Arrowsmith Study Guide." Course Hero. 30 Aug. 2019. Web. 30 Nov. 2022. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2019, August 30). Arrowsmith Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "Arrowsmith Study Guide." August 30, 2019. Accessed November 30, 2022.


Course Hero, "Arrowsmith Study Guide," August 30, 2019, accessed November 30, 2022,

Arrowsmith | Chapters 5–6 | Summary



Chapter 5

In Part 1 Martin Arrowsmith is taking a large number of subjects, though he loves bacteriology the most. He is living with Clif Clawson. In classes he adopts Max Gottlieb's manner of critiquing other professors' experimental methods and the medical knowledge they take for granted. This annoys the professors.

The rest of the chapter focuses on Madeline Fox. In Part 2 Madeline throws a big New Year's party, which Martin attends even though he is unaccustomed to fancy parties. She is so gracious at the party that Martin falls even more in love with her. In Part 3 he calls on her at her home and manages to get a kiss. In Part 4 they continue their romance. Clawson says Martin lets Madeline have too much control and that she will get in the way of Martin's ambitions to be a bacteriologist. But Martin decides he wants to marry her anyway.

In Part 5 he proposes, and in Part 6 he tells her mother he wants to marry Madeline. Unexpectedly, Madeline's mother is pleased. In Part 7 Madeline takes it upon herself to improve him—telling him he is too vulgar and not ambitious enough. He is caught between his desire for her and her poor treatment of him, all the while studying for exams. When he wants to spend the summer working as a waiter, she does not approve. They quarrel, and he goes off to the North Woods of Canada with Clawson to find work waiting tables. The consolation is that he did well in bacteriology, and Gottlieb has appointed him undergraduate assistant for the next school year.

Chapter 6

Part 1 describes how Martin and Madeline write letters to each other all summer—first apologetic letters and then love letters. When everyone arrives back at school in the fall, the two have an emotional reunion.

Part 2 describes the "whirlwind" of Martin's third year of school. His courses, relationship with Madeline, and duties as Gottlieb's assistant fill his time. He also begins his first original research, studying rabbits immunized against typhoid. His work pleases Gottlieb, so in Part 3 the professor sends Martin to Zenith General Hospital to procure a strain of meningococcus. There, he talks to a nurse who treats him with indifference when he thinks he should be treated with respect. He becomes angry, but he can't stop thinking about her. He goes back to see her on his way out and feels "an instant and complete comradeship" with her. They fall into congenial conversation. She tells him her name—Leora Tozer (Leora Arrowsmith). After more conversation both feel as though they've been reunited with a missing part of themselves. Martin asks her to dinner. She agrees. The date goes well, and they have a few more. Within a few weeks he and Leora are engaged.

Part 4 begins the morning after he becomes engaged to Leora. He is supposed to see Madeline, to whom he is still engaged. He feels bad and is preoccupied with the situation. He's absentminded in the lab, and Gottlieb chastises him for his mistakes. He awkwardly visits with Madeline and then goes out for drinks with Clawson to try and distract himself from his conundrum. He eventually decides to take action.

In Part 5 Martin invites both of his fiancées to lunch. He reveals the double engagement, and Madeline gets angry and leaves. Leora sticks with him, though she warns him not to get engaged to any more girls, because she'd have to hurt them.


Martin's two fiancées are near opposites, and their differences highlight the theme of respectability, success, and social class. Martin's relationship with Madeline is characterized by her constant attempts to improve him, to make him less vulgar and more refined. She throws a fancy party at which he is uncomfortable, though she is clearly in her element. She objects strongly to his becoming a waiter and to his friendship with Clif Clawson. Clawson can easily see that the relationship is unhealthy and tries to warn Martin that Madeline will derail his dream of becoming a bacteriologist. Clawson is correct, but Martin's continued attachment to Madeline reveals his major weakness: a desire to fit in with high society. When Martin sees Madeline so gracious at her party, he loves her even more. He longs to be part of that world. This weakness will rear its head in nearly every city where Martin lands throughout the novel.

However, Martin does not give in to the temptation of high society in this case. Providentially, it seems, he meets Leora Tozer (Leora Arrowsmith), who he immediately recognizes as a person of his own class. Leora is likely based on Rhea Barbarin (1897–1957), American bacteriologist and second wife of Paul de Kruif, Sinclair Lewis's collaborator on this novel. When Martin first sees Leora, she is scrubbing a floor in a grubby nurse's uniform. Significantly, she uses "damn" in her second line of dialogue—the word Madeline once chastised Martin for using. She is "thin and slangy" and "vulgar" in his first assessment. But she is honest and blunt. He is soon won over by her, recognizing she is "of his own people." She is "jocular, unreticent, ... also gallant ... full of laughter at humbugs [and] capable of a loyalty too casual and natural to seem heroic." Her naturalness and honesty encourage him to also drop pretenses of being respectable and heroic. It is clear that choosing her over Madeline is an important milestone in Martin's journey to being his authentic self. She will be an anchor for him and an antidote to society's ideas of what a doctor should be.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Arrowsmith? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!