Arrowsmith By Sinclair Lewis Summary and Analysis Chapter XXI

Summary

Nautilus, under the leadership of Pickerbaugh, is among the first American communities to develop the weeks habit: Swat the Fly Week, Gladhand Week, Better Babies Week, and a host of others. Martin balks at More Babies Week as he believes in population control.

Irving Watters and other such physicians attack Pickerbaugh, fearing that if his health campaigns are too successful, their income will be reduced. When Martin suggests to his superior that more could be accomplished by pasteurizing all milk and by burning down disease-infected tenements than by parades and slogans, Pickerbaugh declines to follow such procedures for fear of offending people.

Martin's laboratory, though well equipped and lighted, is little satisfaction to him because of constant interruptions by trivial matters.

The Pickerbaugh daughters, notably Orchid, furnish some of the interruptions in Martin's laboratory; Orchid does her painting and lettering there. Leora can always tell when he has spent an afternoon with Orchid. When, in the summer of 1914, Leora goes to visit her family for two weeks, Martin finds solace in Orchid's company. Once he kisses her, and after that she becomes a nuisance, telephoning him every few hours. He realizes that her intelligence is too low for her to be admitted even to the mediocre local college. Martin is happy when Leora returns.

Analysis

The American way of life, with its clean-up campaigns, its high-powered boosters, its money-grabbing, and its deficiencies beneath the surface is the target for Lewis' satire again in this chapter. Nautilus has more special weeks than the year contains. The character of Orchid, healthy and handsome but brainless, is notable only because of her impact on Martin. That Martin's lukewarm affair with her should be his first and practically his only extra-marital venture is also ironic. The narrative has now covered the period from 1897 to the summer of 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I.

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