Summary and Analysis
Clif Clawson, now a successful automobile salesman, drives into Zenith at the dizzying speed of thirty-eight miles an hour. The year is 1908. Noisy as ever but better groomed, he takes Martin to dinner at the Grand Hotel, where they are joined by George F. Babbitt, ten years their senior and now a real estate king. To Martin, poor and shabby, Clif seems like Napoleon and Babbitt another Gladstone.
Leora writes that she may not be able to return to Zenith, and Martin is upset and lonely. Gottlieb, who is "jumpy and testy" from working eighteen hours a day, in a rage fires Martin as assistant because of a mistake involving experimentation on rabbits. Martin, half intoxicated, is summoned before Dean Silva, who warns him to turn over a new leaf or face suspension for the rest of the year. Martin refuses to apologize to Gottlieb and is therefore dropped from the university, with six dollars in his pocket.
Martin seeks Clif Clawson, from whom he borrows a hundred dollars to go to Leora. He becomes a hobo, however, and works at odd jobs such as that of dishwasher and soda-clerk, mainly because of mental frustration but partly because of his desire to keep the borrowed money intact for his reunion with Leora. He finally sends her a telegram saying that he will arrive in Wheatsylvania Wednesday afternoon.
Leora, in a big coonskin coat, is waiting for him in front of the "red box of a station." He promptly tells her that he has come to marry her. She objects that her father will never consent as he has had no part in the planning. Martin is unfavorably received by Mr. and Mrs. Tozer and Leora's brother, Bert, but in spite of them he manages to elope with her by train the next morning. That afternoon at one o'clock, they are married in the county seat, Leopolis, by a German Lutheran minister. The whole rampant Tozer family meet the newlyweds at the station upon their return. No one but Leora listens to Martin's remarks that he is a good young man, a wonderful bacteriologist, and able to take care of his wife. In the midst of the argument, Leora coolly lights a cigarette and diverts the attention of her scandalized family to her and away from her husband.
Mr. Tozer mildly orders the family to "stop scrapping" since there is no proof that Martin is an unsuitable husband for Leora and since he is returning to medical school at once. Leora is to remain with her family until after Martin's graduation and is never to smoke another cigarette. Three days later, Martin walks into Dr. Silva's office at Winnemac.
Twenty-five dollars a week, plus commissions, was wealth in 1908, and Clif Clawson flourishes it in the face of impecunious and high-minded Martin Arrowsmith. Another go-getter, George F. Babbitt, already familiar from the novel which bears his name, is introduced as the typical big businessman. Already he is headed toward politics and expects in ten or twelve years to represent the state of Winnemac in Washington, D.C. Lewis, through satire, brings out the inequity in pay and prominence between hollow men and those of genuine ability and character.
The disagreeable Tozer family is introduced in this chapter: Mr. Tozer, slightly more reasonable than the others; Mrs. Tozer, always whining, and even feigning illness; the fiery, argumentative Bert; and his fiancée, Miss Ada Quist, who "seemed to speak with her pointed nose as much as with her button of a mouth." They are to make matters difficult for Martin but at the same time to push him on through medical school.
Martin's marriage to Leora is set against a background of intolerance. His break with Gottlieb and the university is a device to get him out of Winnemac and into the western wheat fields, where the drab village of Wheatsylvania and the still more drab and hostile Tozer family give him an unfriendly welcome. Mr. Tozer, however, is the first to accept Martin as a son-in-law and to arrange for him to return to Winnemac and finish his medical degree.