Study Guide

Arrowsmith Chapter 20

By Sinclair Lewis

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Chapter 20

Sections 1-4

  • Lewis starts this chapter with a funny description of how Nautilus, under the leadership of Pickerbaugh, develops a "weeks habit."
  • Every single week is given some sort of symbolic meaning. The first week of May is lung cancer awareness week, the second week of July is tennis elbow prevention week, and so on. You get the point. 
  • All this time, Martin tries to work in his laboratory whenever he can. But he's interrupted by constant public awareness campaigns and visits from the Pickerbaugh daughters… although he doesn't mind visits from Orchid. 
  • One night, Martin leaves his lab and finds himself wandering toward the Pickerbaugh house. When he gets there, he sees Orchid hanging out with a handsome young man named Charley. The three of them make small talk, and then Charley leaves. Martin sits next to Orchid and they chat a while more. Orchid says that she loves to talk to mature men like Martin instead of immature ones like Charley. 
  • Orchid inches closer to Martin and he doesn't mind one bit. Martin holds her hand and draws her closer to him. She protests, but moves into him anyway. He goes in to kiss her, but then doesn't and walks home. 
  • The next time Orchid visits his lab, he grabs her and kisses her. She thinks it's wrong at first, and then decides that she doesn't care if Martin is married. 
  • That night while Martin is playing poker, Orchid calls him to ask how he's doing. What follows is a super awkward conversation because Martin doesn't want Orchid to get into the habit of calling him at home. Worse yet, all the men playing poker can tell that he's been on the phone with a woman who's not his wife. 
  • The next day, Orchid calls him again and asks to meet so they can talk everything over. Martin has a huge argument with himself before going. On the one hand, he doesn't want to be a boring, middle-aged man. On the other, he doesn't want to be a dirty old man chasing young girls. In the end, he and Orchid decide not to let things go any farther.

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