From the time he was fourteen years old, Martin Arrowsmith was preparing for his career as a scientist in the field of medicine. Nothing distracted him more than temporarily from the work he had chosen above all others. While his contemporaries were engaged in money-grabbing, status seeking, and worldly diversions, he remained faithful to his ideals of honesty and the search for truth. Because of this uncompromising attitude, he lost several opportunities for promotion and increased popularity.
Steps in his career included his training in Winnemac, his internship immediately following, his practice as a country doctor in Wheatsylvania, his experiences under Pickerbaugh at Nautilus, his work at Rouncefield Clinic, and finally his position in McGurk Institute, reaching a high point with his fight against the plague in the West Indies. Each stage broadened and strengthened his scientific knowledge and experience, and the disillusionment along the way only served to enhance his radical tendencies and to drive him nearer his final goal, pure research, “far from the madding crowd” (from Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard). He had sampled several areas of the medical field and found laboratory work most to his liking. He had had two wives of different background and temperament and had moved in various strata of the social world, from life in a crude country village to that of the smart set in New York City. He read and studied in fields other than medicine, including literature, art, foreign languages, and various branches of mathematics.
Yet he decided to shun the so-called civilized world with all its trappings and to go into semi-seclusion with Terry Wickett in Vermont rather than to continue as the husband of a wealthy New York socialite. Off-beat, radical, yet devoted to his chosen field and untiring in his search for truth, Martin Arrowsmith is one of Lewis’ finest creations, reflecting many characteristics of the author himself.