Summary and Analysis Chapter XIX



Nautilus, a town of seventy thousand, is to Zenith what Zenith is to Chicago. A few score people are wealthy, the rest mostly industrial workers. Mugford Christian College has never bothered to teach biology, much less the theory of evolution.

Martin's director is Dr. Almus Pickerbaugh, head of the Department of Public Health. Forty-eight years old, he looks like Theodore Roosevelt and makes as much as possible of the resemblance. In poetic ability, he likens himself to Longfellow. His health jingles are particularly trite and boring to Martin, though Leora considers them "cute." The Pickerbaugh family, in addition to the husband and father, consists of the mother and eight "bounding daughters," the oldest being nineteen-year-old Orchid, who likes men.

Dr. Pickerbaugh is involved in so many extracurricular activities that the list makes Martin's head swim. The young physician's life is supposed to follow the same pattern. Leora comments that he has a job that will take twenty-eight hours a day, with the rest of the time for research, barring interruptions.

During an interminable evening at the Pickerbaugh home, when Martin and Leora are overfed and worn to a frazzle with after-dinner games, Orchid takes advantage of the opportunity to become quite familiar with the young doctor. Leora is jealous and on the way home reminds him that he is hers and that she will tolerate no trespassers. Over coffee at an all-night lunch wagon, Martin hears the workingman's evaluation of Pickerbaugh, which is favorable.


Lewis is never nearer Dickens than in this chapter. The very name of Pickerbaugh, with its irony, recalls Micawber, Pecksniff, Chuzzlewit, and a dozen others. The extreme extrovert qualities of the man and the multitude of activities, serious and inconsequential, in which he is involved identify him with the American go-getters, however, already depicted in Babbitt. As a result of the impossible load of duties assigned to him, Martin is almost ready to grab Leora and to take the next train out of town. His better judgment, however, causes him to remain and to try the position for a while, in spite of his disappointment in regard to laboratory work.