Even though liquor is illegal in many of the places Martin lives, he always turns to it when he's feeling blue or doesn't really know where his life is headed. Most of the time, he's able to pull himself out of alcoholism and get his life back on track. But even after he does this, alcohol continues to hover in the background of his life, waiting for something to go wrong and for Martin to come crawling back.
On the whole, Arrowsmith suggests that alcohol can be okay in small amounts. But this novel also seems skeptical of people's ability to drink in moderation. This isn't surprising, considering that Sinclar Lewis struggled with alcoholism for a good part of his life… but also totally won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Can we say high-functioning?
Questions About Drugs and Alcohol
When does Martin turn to alcohol the most in this book? Why?
What does Martin think of teetotalers (people who don't drink at all)? Use specific evidence from the text to support your answer.
What event happens midway through this book that makes it hard for Martin to get his hands on alcohol?
Chew on This
In Arrowsmith, we find that alcohol is generally a negative force on people because it exaggerates people's bad personal tendencies.
Arrowsmith seems to suggest that drinkers are irresponsible, but non-drinkers are worse because their moral superiority is aggravating.