Study Guide

Arrowsmith Chapter 17

By Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 17

Sections 1-3

  • Martin is promoted to public health officer in his town. But little does he know that this so-called promotion will nearly ruin his practice. As a public health officer, Martin has the power to tell people what to do. 
  • And when you're a stickler for scientific laws like Martin, you end up annoying a lot of people. One of his first acts of business involves a woman infected with typhoid. He puts her in quarantine against the wishes of the whole community. 
  • No one believes she's a carrier of the disease because they don't understand how a person can be a carrier and not be sick. 
  • Martin slips up, though, when he mistakes a few cases of chickenpox for a full-blown smallpox epidemic. People never really let him off the hook for this one. They constantly tease and make fun of him for the mistake. They don't really care about all the times Martin has been right. They're only interested in calling him out when he's wrong. 
  • After this, Martin decides that he can't take any more insults from the good people of Bumpkinville. 
  • Out of desperation, Martin writes to Gustaf Sondelius asking whether the guy knows of any job openings in the area of public health.
  • Next thing you know, Martin gets a job as Assistant of Public Health working for a guy named Pickerbaugh. 
  • Martin is really pumped to be getting away from Wheatsylvania and from his in-laws. 
  • The hilarious thing is that nearly everyone in Wheatsylvania, after years of hounding Martin, is heartbroken to see him leave.

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