Arrowsmith learned about women from his first love, Madeline Fox. She is the upper middle-class university student, preparing to teach English, who, once Martin is engaged to her, undertakes at once to improve him. Her constant criticism of his slang, his manners, and his way of life becomes tiresome, although he feels that much of it is justified and admits that he needs such help.
Madeline is eager for a husband but wants one whom she can mold to her own liking. Clif Clawson, in spite of his boorishness, realizes that if Martin marries her, he will never rise above the level of a “tonsil-snatcher.” Madeline is the first of several critics, however, who prod Martin into self-improvement through further study and cultured pursuits, Gottlieb and Terry Wickett being among the number.