Study Guide

Arrowsmith Family

By Sinclair Lewis

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Martin Arrowsmith is an orphan, but not the happy go-lucky Orphan Annie type. The guy seems to have a taste for solitude, especially when it comes to working in his laboratory day and night. Because all orphans aren't workaholic recluses (lookin' at you, Annie), this tendency probably pre-existed the death of his parents. But it seems likely that the death of his parents pushed farther in this direction.

We also see Arrowsmith habitually abandoning his wifey, and then habitually abandoning his second wifey. So much for marital bliss, eh Martin? You weirdo.

Throughout Arrowsmith we see Martin constantly looking for a father figure to look up to, whether it's Max Gottlieb or Gustaf Sondelius. Hmm, maybe he would have looked up to Annie's Daddy Warbucks, too?

Questions About Family

  1. How do you think Martin's lack of family growing up shapes his character? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
  2. How does Martin react when Leora has a miscarriage and loses their baby? What are the consequences of this event?
  3. By the end of the book, do you consider Martin to be a responsible family man? Why or why not?
  4. How do other scientists in this book (Max Gottlieb, Terry Wickett, Gustaf Sondelius) tend to interact with their families? Are their family relationships different from or similar to Martin's?

Chew on This

In Arrowsmith, Sinclair Lewis shows us that pursuing our individual ambitions will ultimately tear us away from our families and leave us lonely.

In Arrowsmith, we see that family is important, but not nearly as important as the goal of making your mark on human history.

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