Study Guide

Arrowsmith Chapter 18

By Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 18

Section 1-4

  • Martin and Leora move to their new home in Nautilus, a mid-sized city that's way bigger than Wheatsylvania but not as big as a city like Zenith. 
  • It turns out that Martin's new boss, Pickerbaugh, is a bit much. The guy likes to write cheesy little poems and shout them all over the place to make sure that people wash their hands and live healthy lives. 
  • He's basically one of these guys with so much energy that they're annoying. He's also a shameless self-promoter who uses his public office to get his name in the papers.
  • Nonetheless, Martin is so happy to be in a new place that he figures he'll be able to grin and bear Pickerbaugh's plucky personality (say that five times fast).
  • For all of Pickerbaugh's jolliness, Martin finds out on his first day that his job is really going to be serious and difficult, which is something that actually comforts him. He's tired of feeling bored and unchallenged. 
  • Soon after arriving in Nautilus, Martin and Leora go to the Pickerbaughs' house for dinner. When they get there, they meet Pickerbaugh's beaming wife and their eight daughters, each one more smiley than the last. Pickerbaugh loves showing off how perfect they all are. 
  • At some point in the night, Martin realizes that he feels attracted to Pickerbaugh's teenage daughter, Orchid. She seems to feel the same thing, and takes every opportunity she can to snuggle up alongside Martin, not really caring that he's married. 
  • And guess what? Leora totally notices… She tells Martin that if she catches him snuggling with that Orchid girl again, she'll murder the girl. 
  • After they fight, Martin leaves her and goes to hang out at an all-night food truck. There, he asks a cop what people think of Pickerbaugh. The guy says that Pickerbaugh is annoying, but people like him well enough. 
  • All Martin can think, though, is how much a man like Max Gottlieb would spit upon a propaganda-lover like Pickerbaugh. 
  • Then he feels his thoughts wandering back to Pickerbaugh's daughter Orchid.
  • Come on, Martin. Sort your head out.

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