Martin Arrowsmith, the titular protagonist, grows up in a small Midwestern town where he wants to become a doctor. At medical school he meets an abrasive but brilliant professor, Gottlieb, who becomes his mentor. As Arrowsmith completes his training he begins a career practicing medicine. But, echoing Lewis’s Main Street, small-town life becomes too insular and restricting; his interest in research and not people makes him unpopular, and he decides to work in a research laboratory instead.
From there Arrowsmith begins a career that hits all of the ethical quandaries that scientists and those in the medical profession encounter: everything from the ethical problem of research protocol strictness versus saving lives, to doing research for the betterment of mankind versus for turning a profit, to the politics of institutions, to the social problems of wealth and poverty. Arrowsmith struggles with these dilemmas because, like all of us, he isn’t perfect. Despite his interest in helping humanity, he has little interest in people—aside from his serial womanizing—and this makes the path of his career an even harder one to walk. He’s surrounded on all sides by icons of nobility, icons of pride, and icons of rapaciousness, each one distracting him from his calling.
|Harcourt Brace & Co. (US)
|Jonathan Cape (UK)