In the introduction to this book, it says that Sinclair Lewis proved, in writing it, that American idealism was incompatible with tragedy. The hero, MIn the introduction to this book, it says that Sinclair Lewis proved, in writing it, that American idealism was incompatible with tragedy. The hero, Martin Arrowsmith, is a quintessential American idealist: he's hardworking, smart, ambitious, stubborn and cheerful. He's a young doctor who vows during medical school that he, unlike his dull and greedy peers, will devote his life to Pure Science. The rest of his career following graduation is his attempt to live that dream while every job he accepts pressures him to compromise it --- first, he work as a doctor in his fiancee's hometown, where her family supports his practice and makes him spend his time treating the imaginary ailments of the town worthies' hypochondriac wives; later, he works as an assistant to a grandstanding country doctor whose political skills exceed his medical knowledge, as a researcher in a lab more interested in selling drugs than letting Arrowsmith pursue Truth, and so on. Arrowsmith finds himself unhappy in all of these settings because he feels his grand intentions are being thwarted, but he still keeps trying and keeps hoping.
I did not quite finish this book --- I had something like twenty pages left when I had to give it back, so it may be that in those last pages the conflict between optimism and tragedy is resolved....more