Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Arrowsmith (Pulitzer Winning Novel)

Medicine. Scientific Research. Public Health. Bubonic Plague. Commercialism. Salesmanship. Success. Men of Measured Merriment. Politics. 

Arrowsmith, written by Sinclair Lewis, won the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel. It was made into a film in 1931. I found the novel a nice change of pace from some of the previous Pulitzer winners that focused on domestic drama.

Briefly, Lewis describes Martin Arrowsmith’s journey into the world of medicine. The story opens with a young Martin working for a doctor. The storyline continues with Martin going to medical school, taking various jobs, becoming a minor hero, and fighting to do what he loves. Lewis shows how various people in Martin’s life support or undermine his love of research. Lewis also shows the politics and social aspects of medicine.

While Arrowsmith is set in an earlier time, a modern audience can easily relate to it. The novel speaks to the idea of doing something we love and to having a calling. In some ways the novel is a love story. Lewis shows Martin’s love for research, his love for various women and his admiration and fondness for various men. My guess is that many modern medical novelists were inspired by this story.

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