Arrowsmith is a classic American novel written by Sinclair
Lewis. Lewis wrote this book in the early 1900’s as a
current outlook on the world of science in that time. The
main theme it focuses on is commercialism and its effect on
science. During this time period there were many advances
in the field of medicine; everyone was racing to find the cure
to deadly diseases and then patent it and profit off it. Helping
humanity was more of a business than a service to the human
race as doctors and institutes became more and more
capitalistic. Like a business trying to maximize its profit,
many doctors and scientists cut corners and guessed at many
things so they could get their products or methods on the
market as fast as possible. However, there were a few
scientists who stayed strictly devoted to their science, not
letting money, glory, and success corrupt them. Scientists
such as this despised commercialism and held contempt
against the other doctors and scientists who fell into that
system of capitalism. The book follows the life of Martin
Arrowsmith, a scientist who is torn between pure science
and commercialism. He wants to be a true scientist but he is
pushed into commercialism by everyone he meets, except
for a select few. Among the few is Max Gottlieb, who is
Martin’s model for everything a true scientist should be.

Gottlieb is a bacteriologist who is completely against the
capitalist values of commercial doctors and scientists; he
devotes himself religiously to his science, and he believes in
being completely thorough and not guessing or accepting
things without completely understanding them. Terry
Wickett, a disciple of Gottlieb’s, holds all the same values
and attitudes as Gottlieb toward capitalism and
commercialism. He helps Martin break away from
commercialism, and become a true scientist. Another person
who greatly helps Martin in his life is his first wife, Leora
Tozer, who stands by and supports Martin no matter what.

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She devotes herself to Martin as much as Gottlieb devotes
himself to his science. She supports him in whatever decision
he decides to make, she helps and comforts him in his times
of need, and she remains completely loyal to him at all times,
even when he is not completely loyal to her. The story starts
with Martin Arrowsmith as a medical student at Winnemac
University, where he was first introduced to commercial
science and pure science, and made to choose between the
two. It is here that Martin first meets Max Gottlieb, who was
a professor and the university and head of the bacteriology
department, and becomes completely in awe of him. His
classmates mock Martin for his choice in idol, because they
see Gottlieb as somewhat of a failure in life, simply because
he is poor and not very high standing or recognized in
society, which is actually what Gottlieb prefers to be. A few
of Martin’s classmates that have a significant effect on his life
are Ira Hinkley, Angus Duer, and Clif Clawson. Ira Hinkley
is a humanitarian, self-righteous reverend who later becomes
a missionary in the West Indies. He is studying medicine for
the purpose of helping humanity and gaining glory for himself
along the way. Angus Duer is a social climber who is
studying science more for the sake of obtaining the inherent
respect held for doctors and scientists. He does all the
methods and techniques with a cold precision but only
because he was told to do them, not because he wants to
understand why things are the way they are. Clif Clawson is
completely centered on making money and being successful.

He went into medical school solely because he would be
able to make a lot of money being a doctor or physician.

The university essentially teaches students how to make
money from their knowledge through commercialism, even
more than the actual medical science itself. The following
passage is part of a lesson that Dr. Roscoe Geake, who is a
professor in the university, gives to his students. “Knowledge
is the greatest thing in the medical world but it’s no good
whatever unless you can sell it, and to do this you must first
impress your personality on the people who have the dollars.

Whether the patient is a new or an old friend, you must
always use salesmanship on him. Explain to him, also to his
stricken and anxious family, the hard work and thought you
are giving to his case, and so make him feel that the good
you have done him, or intend to do him, is even greater than
the fee you plan to charge. Then, when he gets your


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