Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis is a novel I picked-up at library sale. It’s publication date of 1924 and recognition of the author’s name convinced me it was a worthy addition to my library. Lewis was offered a Pulitzer Prize for his work on this novel, but surprisingly, he refused it.
What is not surprising is that Lewis wrote a medically themed book because several family members were doctors. Lewis drew upon his familiarity with the subject to craft this novel about a man whose interests and education lead him to become a country doctor. Newly married Arrowsmith encounters difficulty in the establishing himself until he loses a young patient already beyond help at his arrival. Surprisingly, his heroic attempt to save the child’s life ends-up working in his favor. Time passes and a dissatisfied Arrowsmith decides to move to greener pastures. His true passion lies in scientific research which leads him to a more lucrative position. Here we find him in foreign lands fighting an epidemic as well as his desire to discover a cure for the plague. Strict scientific protocol requires Arrowsmith to vaccinate some, but not all patients. He isn’t bothered by this; giving insight into his convictions as a research scientist whose adherence to the rules of research supersede the urgency of saving lives.
There’s much more of interest in Arrowsmith’s life which has more lows than highs. He is a reclusive man continually fighting to pursue his passion for scientific research in a world where he is misunderstood by the vast majority of people in the medical field.
This novel is slow moving, but an interesting character study of a man in conflict with the world in which he resides. I am surprised it was nominated for a Pulitzer, but it was written in very different times. If you enjoy the work of Sinclair Lewis, science, or medicine, I imagine you will appreciate this story. I think it is interesting.