Arrowsmith | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Arrowsmith | Chapters 7–8 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 7

Parts 1 and 2 of show that the engagement of Leora Tozer (Leora Arrowsmith) and Martin Arrowsmith is off to a wonderful start. Martin feels comfortable telling her everything. She is kind and encouraging. In Part 3 they attend a dance at Martin's old fraternity. Martin is anxious and awkward. He wants the other men to admire Leora and ask her to dance, but they are ignored at first. Eventually, other men ask her to dance, which makes Martin jealous. She reassures him that she doesn't care anything for any other man.

In Part 4 the dance goes very late, and Martin, Clif Clawson, and Leora all talk together. Clawson pronounces Leora "a girl that's real folks" and tells them he approves of their engagement. In the wee hours of the morning Martin reflects on the evening and begins to feel badly. He hates Angus Duer's aloofness but also fears that Duer has something he does not.

In Part 5 Martin runs into Duer who invites Martin and Leora to a play, As It Listeth. Leora plans to bring along Nelly Byers, another nurse. In Part 6 they see the play and decide to go out for dinner afterward. Nelly decides not to join them; she wants to be back at the nurse's quarters before their curfew. Leora says she'll sneak in a window. At dinner Duer flirts with and flatters Leora, which makes Martin sulk. Eventually the men take her back to her residence. Martin follows her inside, and they share a kiss. Then Martin climbs back out the window, only to find Duer asleep outside.

A night watchman attempts to apprehend them. But Duer wakes up and attacks the watchman, saying "He dared to touch me!" and pulling a pen knife. Martin pulls Duer away before he can cut the watchman's throat. After they escape, Duer is still a wreck. He says when he was a kid he tried to kill a person, but he thought he was over it. Martin takes him to a bar, gets him drunk, then takes him to his home. He thinks now they will be good friends. But in the morning Duer is just as much of a snob as he was before.

Chapter 8

In Part 1 Martin continues his work for Professor Max Gottlieb. He takes a dislike to Dr. Roscoe Geake, who tells the class they should focus on rich patients and use salesmanship to make lots of money. In Part 2 Martin listens to Professor Geake's address to the medical school on "The Art and Science of Furnishing the Doctor's Office."

In Part 3 Leora must go stay with her sick mother in North Dakota, so Martin spends Christmas vacation working in the lab. Unfortunately, his work is lackluster and sloppy because he misses Leora, and Gottlieb is not pleased. Feeling down, Martin tracks down Clif Clawson, and they go out drinking. Martin finds that getting drunk helps the loneliness and stress in his life.

In Part 4 a banquet is held to honor the memory of the late Dr. Warburton Stonedge, founder of the medical school at the University of Winnemac. A Dr. Benoni Carr arrives at the banquet and impresses everyone with his knowledge. He is seated at the dean's table and proceeds to get profoundly drunk, which gets him thrown out of the banquet. Clawson admits that the drunk doctor is a con man and quack doctor whom he'd brought into the banquet. As a result of this prank, Clawson must leave the medical school. With both Clawson and Leora gone, Martin's loneliness intensifies.

Analysis

These chapters find Martin Arrowsmith still torn between fitting into high society and being his real, more rustic small-town self. Though he chose Leora Tozer (Leora Arrowsmith) over Madeline Fox, the qualities Martin admired in Madeline are still qualities he admires in general. Now he wishes, just a bit, that Leora would be a little more like Madeline. He is concerned about how other people see him. He wants them to envy him for having a lovely woman as his fiancée. Unfortunately, when he finally gets what he wants, he is the one that becomes jealous.

His negative feelings about the party focus on Angus Duer, who has become an example of all the things that make Martin feel insecure. Duer is a model student and is cultured. Despite Martin's outward confidence, inside he is riddled with insecurity that Duer and those like him have something he lacks. His inability to settle into his true self stems from this deep insecurity. He just can't avoid the desire to fit in—to be assured by social acceptance that he is worthy.

Duer's behavior toward Leora at and after the play seems designed to stoke this jealousy and insecurity. It is in this interaction that Leora's significance as a partner to Martin is evident. She is completely loyal, and though she understands him completely she also accepts him fully as he is. He can't complete his individual journey as a person, becoming who he wants to and should be, without her stabilizing influence. She isn't swayed or deceived in the least by Duer. She is no-nonsense about Duer's flattery and assures Martin she loves him and him only. She brings him back to himself as she will time and again.

The theme of commercialism resurfaces in Chapter 8, as Martin reacts negatively to Dr. Roscoe Geake's instruction that doctors should focus on rich patients and rely on salesmanship to maximize profits. This caricature culminates in Geake's address on "The Art and Science of Furnishing the Doctor's Office." Lewis here satirizes a certain kind of doctor who is more interested in material wealth than in healing patients.

The dismissal of Clif Clawson and the absence of Leora leave Martin at a low point in his life. He is lonely and drinking too much. More worrisome, he begins to rely on alcohol as a way to feel better. Since Chapter 1 emphasized the drunkenness of Doc Vickerson, it is clear that self-medicating with alcohol is something the novel warns against. Lewis wrote during Prohibition, the period from 1919 to 1933 when the manufacture and sale of alcohol were prohibited in the United States. Alcohol use and abuse remained widespread and culturally contentious when Lewis was writing Arrowsmith. Though he does not condemn all use of alcohol—and even satirizes teetotalers—he does paint a dark picture of its abuse.

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