Summary and Analysis Chapter XXVII



Slow and tedious experiments are not so to Martin. Tubbs gives the young man vague encouragement. Gottlieb asks him discomforting questions. For all his fumbling, Martin has "wide-ranging . . . unselfdramatizing curiosity," which drives him on.

Mrs. Ross McGurk, whose given name is Capitola, is a great uplifter. Her husband has bought the Institute to keep her out of his other business interests, including shipping and mining. Descended from California railroad men and possessing a Yale degree and unlimited cash, McGurk admires and even becomes friends with the cynical Gottlieb. Capitola has no share in this friendship. Gottlieb refuses to open his laboratory to guests at one of her intellectual dinner parties. Her husband forbids her to "get funny with Max," but she is still uncontrollable, especially in regard to the monthly scientific dinners. The first of these functions to be attended by Martin, and Leora has as an honored guest Major-General Sir Isaac Mallard, a London surgeon. Terry Wickett is rude to the chief guest, and he, Martin, and Leora leave early because of the shallowness of the small talk.

Holabird is too fond of self-praise, and Martin becomes disgusted. He finds that his colleagues are divided into several factions, the ruling caste being Tubbs, Holabird, and Tubbs's secretary, Pearl Robbins. Allied with Gottlieb are Martin, Wickett, and Dr. Nicholas Yeo, with Dr. Sholtheis leaning in their direction. Dr. William Smith keeps to himself.

Martin is amazed and hurt when Gottlieb and Wickett insist that he needs to study mathematics and physical chemistry as a background for his laboratory work. He bores Leora until two in the morning, however, with algebra, trigonometry, analytic geometry, and differential calculus. He also reads the classics of physical science. So absorbed is he in study that he hardly notices when America enters World War I in 1917.

Dr. Tubbs offers the services of the Institute to the War Department, and all the doctors are made officers. Only one, Terry Wickett, goes to France. The others are uncomfortable in their uniforms and in doubt about when to salute. Otherwise the pattern of their lives is not greatly changed.

Gottlieb, however, as a German Jew, is a target for insulting remarks and even suspicion. His son, Robert, joins the United States Army to fight against his cousins, who are Germans. Gottlieb's strong accent and his expressions, such as Auf Wiedersehen, bring criticism, and the old man is very sad.

The McGurk staff members do more than wear uniforms, however. They prepare sera, invent electrified wire entanglements, and work on poison gas. Martin is conscious of Gottlieb's suffering and tries to console the old man, though kindness to the unfortunate is not one of Martin's qualities. His research wipes everything else from his mind and makes him turn his war work over to others.


This chapter brings the narrative up to the year 1917 and America's entrance into World War I. The narrow-mindedness and intolerance of people in the grip of war hysteria are brought to light in realistic fashion in the callous treatment of Gottlieb. There is irony, too, in the switch by McGurk Institute from concentration on means of preserving and prolonging life to means of destroying it. To Martin, although assigned research connected with the war effort, the whole episode is but an interruption of his own line of scientific investigation.