Study Guide

Arrowsmith Chapter 32

By Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 32

Sections 1-7

  • Now comes the hard part of Martin's work in St. Hubert: trying to convince the local leaders to let him use the island's infected people as part of a scientific experiment. And the experiment, ahem, will involve letting half of these people die. 
  • That's pretty much the definition of a hard sell. 
  • As Martin travels around and sees people dying, he can feel his resolve dwindling. But he keeps commanding himself not to give into his feelings and to push forward in the name of science. 
  • Martin finally travels to the house of the local governor and asks his permission to try out his experiment. The dude erupts and practically kicks Martin out of his house, calling him a heartless jerk. 
  • Martin's next move is to present his experiment idea to a special board of the island's leaders. Sondelius is even one of the men sitting on this board, but he denounces Martin's idea just as strongly as anyone else. He practically leads the charge against Martin's experiment. 
  • But Sondelius comes to Martin's defense once the annoying Ira Hinkley jumps up and starts calling Martin a fraud. In the process, Sondelius somehow finds himself on Martin's side, and the official board panel decides to give Martin's idea some consideration. 
  • Four days after this meeting, Martin hears that Ira Hinkley has died. 
  • Martin gets started in his work when he finds an entire village afflicted by plague and gives all of them his injections. And sure enough, he notices that this village is the only place where the epidemic starts to improve. 
  • Once Sondelius hears of the improvement, he moves in his team and burns down the village (after evacuating the healthy inhabitants) to make sure no infected rats can get away. 
  • When he gets back to his office, though, he feels under the weather and realizes that a flea must have bitten him. He now has the plague. 
  • Sondelius refuses to get the cure injection until everyone in the island is given it. And since Martin isn't willing to do this, Sondelius dies. With his last words, he begs Martin to cure as many people as he can. But Martin won't budge on his scientific principles. 
  • As more people find out that Martin is withholding a cure, small boys start to throw stones at him when he walks down the streets. 
  • The Surgeon General finally gives up on salvation and abandons the island on a secret ship, deserting all the people he was supposed to take care of. He ultimately can't stand the guilt and shoots himself in the head. 
  • Martin gets a chance to fully test out his experiment and sets off for a village that hasn't been hit hard by the plague yet. He forces Leora to stay behind because he doesn't want to put her in danger. 
  • When he goes to the uninfected village, Martin stays with a rich British family that has an American guest staying with it. The guest is a beautiful young American woman named Joyce Lanyon. Martin instantly feels a connection to her. 
  • When Martin explains his experiment to the household, they all look horrified except for Joyce, who is sympathetic to what Martin is trying to do. 
  • Martin has trouble sleeping that night knowing that Joyce Lanyon is sleeping so close to him. The sad truth is that he can feel himself becoming unbearably attracted to this young girl, even as his wife Leora waits for him back in another village.