Arrowsmith Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Martin Arrowsmith

Martin Arrowsmith, a doctor chiefly interested in bacteriological research. As a medical student, he falls under the influence of Dr. Gottlieb, who gives him an inkling of the excitement of pure science as opposed to the practical side of medicine. After a brief engagement to Madeline Fox, a graduate student in English, Martin marries Leora Tozer, and his marriage forces him to give up his bacteriological research for general medicine study. After graduation, he establishes himself as a general practitioner in Leora’s home town of Wheatsylvania, North Dakota. He becomes acting head of the Department of Public Health there, but his honesty makes him unpopular, and he joins the staff of Dr. Pickerbaugh in Nautilus, Iowa. Pickerbaugh is a fake; the job leaves Martin no time for research, and again his honesty makes enemies. He next moves to Chicago as a pathologist in the Rouncefield Clinic. Through his old teacher, Gottlieb, he next joins the McGurk Institute in New York, an organization more interested in publicity than in pure science. He works on a cure for bubonic plague; when a plague is reported on an island in the West Indies, he goes there with Leora and Dr. Sondelius. With scientific detachment, he promises Gottlieb to test the antitoxin by giving it to only half the population, using the others as controls. After Sondelius and Leora both die of the plague, Martin, in his grief, gives the antitoxin to everyone, thus ruining the value of his experiment. On his return to the McGurk Institute, Martin marries Joyce Lanyon, a wealthy and fashionable widow. The marriage is unhappy; he cannot enter her social...

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