*** By Sinclair Lewis.
This was not an easy book to read — difficult language, complex sentence structure, small print — but it was interesting enough to make me stick to it. And so I was rewarded by its sharp humor and a lot to think about.
The plot follows Martin Arrowsmith's career in medicine, starting with his teenaged apprenticeship and stretching into middle-aged stagnancy. He is not a particularly likeable character, but nor could the opposite be true. Lewis has created a man — no more, no less. Martin is prickly, flawed, irritating, and yet ultimately sympathetic.
Humanity, Lewis argues, condemns (nearly) everyone to mediocrity. All human endeavours — though it is medicine he focuses on — are susceptible to corruption by greed, politics, compassion, and lack of it. Science is only as perfect, pure, and precise as the people studying it. Which is to say, as a rule, not very.
Martin is not exceptional in his acceptance that mediocrity has been his past and will probably comprise his future as well; what makes him exceptional is that this acceptance does not stop him from dedicating his life to his passion. It is his curmudgeonly perseverance, and the ultimate conclusion that our failures do not make us a Failure, that won me over.
Posted by Lisa on October 8, 2003 09:41 PM