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Arrowsmith | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Arrowsmith | Chapters 9–10 | Summary



Chapter 9

Part 1 takes place on a late afternoon in February. A horn sounds outside, and Martin Arrowsmith looks out the window of the lab. He sees Clif Clawson, driving a fancy new car. After leaving school, Clawson became an auto salesman and is making great money. Clawson takes Martin out for an upscale lunch. Real estate broker George F. Babbitt joins them. After a few drinks Martin finds them charming companions. But later Martin focuses on his relative shabbiness and poverty.

In Part 2 Martin learns in a letter from Leora Tozer (Leora Arrowsmith) that she may not be able to return. His loneliness intensifies, and he listlessly goes about his work and studies. Max Gottlieb fires him, and Martin drinks more heavily. His poor performance in class and his drinking get him suspended. Martin borrows $100 from Clawson and aimlessly travels, taking temporary jobs and drinking heavily. He eventually makes his way toward Leora's home.

In Part 3 Martin arrives in Wheatsylvania, North Dakota, and Leora meets him at the train station. He tells her he's been suspended but wants to marry her. She warns him her father will not like it. Mr. and Mrs. Tozer, Leora's parents, ask a lot of questions, but Martin manages to give them the impression he's going to do well as a doctor. They think Martin and Leora should not get married until Martin has proved he can make money, but Martin and Leora elope. Leora's family is quite upset. Her parents say Leora must stay at home until Martin has a job and is making money, Leora will stay with them. "Relations" are strictly forbidden. Martin goes back to school a few days later.

Chapter 10

In Part 1 Martin apologizes to Dean Silva and asks to be let back in. The dean joyfully welcomes him back. Martin becomes Silva's "disciple" and leaves his affection for Professor Gottlieb in the past.

In Part 2 Leora has been kicked out of nursing school for being married and is now studying to become a stenographer. Martin lives frugally and works hard. But he can't accept not being able to see Leora, so he visits Wheatsylvania and tells her father he's going to take her back with him. Then he suggests her father send her money until she can find work. Mr. Tozer is not happy, but he agrees. In Part 3 Martin finds a small room for Leora to rent in Zenith and moves her in.

In Part 4 Leora begins a job at an insurance office. Martin sticks to his studies. He is content. In Part 5 and Part 6 he finishes medical school. Leora and Martin get along wonderfully, though Martin agonizes over what to do after graduation. Finally, he decides to do his internship at Zenith General Hospital and then move to Wheatsylvania to set up his practice.


The theme of commercialism is developed through Martin Arrowsmith's friendship with Clif Clawson. Clawson, having left medical school, is making lots of money in auto sales. His joking manner and extraversion, which made him a poor fit for medical school, are exactly the qualities of a good car salesman. Even though being around the wealthy Clawson and his friend George F. Babbitt makes Martin feel poor, overall Clawson is described positively. He is wealthy but not snobbish. In fact, he is generous and ready to loan Martin a substantial sum of money. Clawson shows that salesmanship is appropriate to some settings and professions. This in turn implies that Clawson and salesmanship are out of place in medicine and science. Lewis is careful not to say salesmanship is evil is all cases, just as he does not say use of alcohol is always wrong. Rather, he makes clear that they are only appropriate in specific contexts.

Because of Martin's love for Leora Arrowsmith and her family's views on his suitability as a husband, Martin distances himself from his goal of becoming a bacteriologist. Leora's family makes clear they will not approve of the marriage until Martin has more than just potential; he needs a solid income. Once he consents to this new path, he seems to quickly abandon his former mentor, Max Gottlieb, and become attached to Dean Silva instead. Silva can help Martin get what he most wants at the moment: Leora. Although Leora is now a force that pulls him away from the pursuit of pure science, she will later encourage him to follow his passion for laboratory research. Life's choices are not clear cut, and their effects are often not felt until years later. But the novel never shies away from the tension between maintaining a family and still having devotion to one's work. Family is sometimes a distraction from research because failure can result in loss of income, putting the family in jeopardy.

The competing forces of commercialism, research, medical practice, and family will continue to intersect in Martin's life.

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