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Essay/Term paper: Arrowsmith

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Cliff Notes

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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.

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 bill, he

will not misunderstand or kick." Martin is constantly being

pushed towards the commercial side of science and away

from Gottlieb and pure science. Almost everyone in the

university is trying to persuade him to do the same as them

and become a practical doctor who works for profit, instead

of a poor scientist who works for years before producing

even the smallest discovery, which may or may not help

anyone. Eventually he gives in and leaves Gottlieb to receive

his doctorate and become a physician in Wheatsylvania,

North Dakota, the home town of his fiancee, Leora Tozer.

In Wheatsylvania, Martin is presented with the life of a

commercial physician, and he becomes appalled with it. He

learns that being a physician is more like trying to make it

appear as if you are helping people than actually doing it. He

finds that their main skill is not actually healing the patient,

but dealing with the family after they failed to save the

patient. They glorify their failure by saying they did all they

could and more, and they spread the blame around as to not

detract from their respectability. A physician in a neighboring

town named Doctor Winter gives Martin this advice. "In a

crucial case, you better call some older doctor in

consultation—not that you need his advice, but it makes a hit

with the family, it divides the responsibility, and keeps "em

from going around criticizing." Disgusted with this, Martin

tries to be an honest physician, but he gets heavily criticized

by all the other physicians and the entire town. The other

doctors criticize him for not asking them for advice and

splitting fees, and the townspeople think he is some hotshot

doctor who believes he is above everyone else, and cares

for no one save himself, which is ironic because he is the

only one who is truly trying to help them. After a while

Martin decides to leave when he receives an offer for a job

in a medical institute in the city of Nautilus where he is led to

believe he will be free to research whatever he wants. In

Nautilus, Martin works in a medical institute under its

director, Dr. Pickerbaugh. Dr. Pickerbaugh supports the

idea of pure science and research and allows Martin

freedom to research whatever he wants, but only to a certain

extent. After Martin has been working a while Pickerbaugh

becomes impatient because so much time has passed and

Martin has not produced anything, so he begins to push

Martin to publish his research and let the world know what

he does. So once again Martin finds himself being pushed

toward commercialism. Pickerbaugh wants him to publish so

that the world may benefit from his work, and also so that

glory and fame may come to Martin and the institute, which

leads toward profit. After a few years Martin decides to

leave after receiving a letter from Max Gottlieb asking him to

work with him in New York. Gottlieb is working at the

McGurk Institute in New York under director Dr. Tubbs,

who has granted Gottlieb complete freedom in his research.

Dr. Tubbs is a social-climber completely driven by

commercialism. Everything he does, he does to profit himself

and the institution. When Martin comes into the institution,

Tubbs grants him the same freedom as Gottlieb. He is free to

research whatever he wants for as long as he wants, and so

Martin returns to Gottlieb and meets Terry Wickett. For a

while everything goes well until Tubbs learns about Martin"s

research and tries to get him to publish. Martin is researching

and experimenting with what could possibly be the cure to

many of the deadly diseases at the time, such as tuberculosis

and the Black Death. He refuses to publish because he has

not finished the research and to publish right away would be

straying away from pure science and towards commercialism

again. Tubbs wants Martin to publish not because it would

help humanity, but because it would bring fame and fortune

to the institute. In commercialism, everything is a race to

discover and produce something and then patent it and take

the credit. We see this when another scientist in another

institute publishes the same discovery on which Martin is

also working. Tubbs is severely disappointed with Martin for

not publishing sooner so that he could receive the credit and

recognition, and he tells Martin to start working on creating

other cures and publish them quickly. However, Martin

decides to continue research on his current project and see if

the other scientist missed or overlooked anything, which is

approved by Gottlieb. Throughout this entire time Gottlieb is

helping Martin stay true to science and protect him from

success. In the following passage Gottlieb is telling Martin

what it means to be a true and authentic scientist. "To be a

scientist—it is not just a different job, so that a man should

choose between being a scientist and being an explorer or a

bond-salesman or a physician or a king or a farmer. It is a

tangle of ver-y obscure emotions, like mysticism, or wanting

to write poetry; it makes its victim all different from the good

normal man. The normal man, he does not care much what

he does except that he should eat and sleep and make love.

But the scientist is intensely religious—he is so religious that

he will not accept quarter-truths, because they are an insult

to his faith. "He wants that everything should be subject to

inexorable laws. He is equal opposed to the capitalists who

t"ink their silly money-grabbing is a system, and to liberals

who t"ink man is not a fighting animal; he takes both the

American booster and the European aristocrat, and he

ignores all their blithering. Ignores it! All of it! He hates the

preachers who talk their fables, but he iss not too kindly to

the anthropologists and historians who can only make

guesses, yet they have the nerf to call themselves scientists!

Oh, yes, he is a man that all nice good-natured people

should naturally hate! "He speaks no meaner of the

ridiculous faith-healers and chiropractors than e does of the

doctors that want to snatch our science before it is tested

and rush around hoping they heal people, and spoiling all the

clues with their footsteps; and worse than the men like hogs,

worse than the imbeciles who have not even heard of

science, he hates pseudo-scientists, guess-scientists—like

these psycho-analysts; and worse than those comic

dream-scientists he hates the men that are allowed in a clean

kingdom like biology but know only one text-book and how

to lecture to nincompoops all so popular! He is the only real

revolutionary, the authentic scientist, because he alone

knows how liddle he knows. "He must be heartless. He lives

in a cold, clear light. Yet dis is a funny t"ing: really, in private,

he is not cold nor heartless—so much less cold than the

Professional Optimists. The world has always been ruled by

the Philanthropists: by the doctors that want to use

therapeutic methods they do not understand, by the soldiers

that want something to defend their country against, by the

preachers that yearn to make everybody listen to them, by

the kind manufacturers that love their workers, by the

eloquent statesmen and soft-hearted authors—and see once

what a fine mess of hell they haf made of the world! Maybe

now it is time for the scientist, who works and searches and

never goes around howling how he loves everybody!"

Because of his research of a cure for the Black Death,

Martin is sent to the West Indies where there is a serious

epidemic of the Plague. He travels there with Leora and

another scientist named Gustaf Sondelius, and meets with his

former classmate, Reverend Ira Hinkley, who is now a

missionary and doctor in the West Indies. Once there,

Martin is faced with the extremely difficult decision between

science and humanity. At this point, his research and tests on

the cure are not complete and it is not certain whether or not

the cure will work. However, Hinkley, Sondelius, and

everyone else who knows he has a cure are pushing him to

distribute it among the masses. Here he faces the question on

whether he should immediately distribute the cure with the

fairly large possibility of failure, or if he should withhold it

until his tests are complete and he is certain on whether or

not it will work. He has a dream where he gets in a car

crash, and he has to choose between his science and the

lives of others. "Shrieks, death groans, the creeping

flames…. The car turning, falling, plumping into a river on its

side; himself trying to crawl through a window as the water

seeped about his body…. Himself standing by the wrenched

car, deciding whether to keep away and protect his sacred

work or go back, rescue people, and be killed." Martin

chooses to continue his tests and be certain that the cure will

work, as the population continues to be ravaged by the

Plague. During this time, both Hinkley and Sondelius die of

the Plague. Martin keeps up his work until Leora contracts

the Black Death and dies. In his grief, Martin gives in and

distributes the experimental cure to everyone. After the

epidemic dies out, all the people of the West Indies label

Martin as a hero and a savior, despite what the people

thought of him when he withheld the cure. However, he feels

that he betrayed Gottlieb and his science. It seems that

commercialism often disguises itself as humanitarianism or

uses humanitarianism to justify itself. It pushes you to act

quickly and hopefully without any of the certainties

demanded by science. For example, the main reason

Sondelius went to the West Indies was to find glory and

fame, rather than the saving the lives of thousands of people.

However, he used humanitarianism as a way to try to

persuade Martin to distribute the cure. When Martin

refused, Sondelius called him a monster and claimed that

Martin was not willing to help the suffering population, nor

did he care about the hundreds of thousands of people dying

from the Plague. What is ironic about this is that this pure

science tends to benefit humanity more than commercialism

science in the long run. The notion that one significant

improvement over a long period of time is better than a

series of failures and half-successes is drowned out by the

propaganda of commercialism. Pure science produces

methods and medicines that are certain. They have been

thoroughly tested and proved to be successful, as opposed

to the medicines produced by commercial scientists. While

they produce more, they are not certain as to what effect

they will have. They hope that if their product works in one

situation, it will work in every situation. However,

commercial science does have positive points as pure

science has negative points. While pure science is more

certain it is also much more long term. Commercial science

gives immediate care and help, despite how much it may

actually help. Pure science is presented as something that

looks toward and works for the future, while commercial

science deals with what is happening at the moment, but

commercialism hinders pure science so much that, in effect, it

may be bringing about the destruction of its own future.  

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