Stylistic Analysis of “Arrowsmith” by Sinclair Lewis

10 October 2016

The author mocks at the weak points of education, at ridiculous university traditions and the life of students in general. The title of the story “Arrowsmith” depicts the surname of the main character. It is a quite rare English surname. The second part of the compound “Smith” means a person who does something extraordinary. An arrow is usually associated with reaching a goal. The surname Arrowsmith is suitable for a person who is initiative, able to think critically, who is patient and persuasive in doing his job.

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Martin Arrowsmith is just this type of a person. For his shyness he is an attractive young man devoted to his studying. The author describes his university experience. The story is a 3-d person narration. It emphasizes that the author is not a participant of the events but just an observer. The description of the university of Winnemac is full of exaggeration . Its comparison to Oxford and Harvard, “its buildings measured by the mile” are good examples of hyperbole.

The enumeration of the disciplines taught at Winnemac is used to show the great variety of useless subjects that students should cope with and to depict the broad specialization of universities where Doctors of Philosophy just “give rapid instructions”. Sinclair Levis says that such variety of subjects can’t guarantee a good quality of education. The epithets “leisury nonsence”, “ snobbish college” are contradicted by a bright metaphor – the university “is a mill to turn out men and women who will lead moral lives…” .

All these devices help the reader to catch the sight of irony which is used more vividly in the sentence where the university is compared to a Ford Motor Factory. It is also a metaphor and this hidden comparison is used to mention that the work of a college is standardized and there is no ground for developing creative thinking, different from the standard one. Everything is designed to produce ordinary people ready to serve for the society. The characteristic of Martin is also very bright. Talking about his prospects the author uses enumeration: a respectable runner, a fair basketball center, a savage hockey player.

The example of metaphor is “The University has become his world”. It puts emphasis on Martin’s loneliness and devotion to studying. Describing Digamma Pi Sinclair Lewis uses zeugma: “It was a lively boarding-house with a billiard table and low prices”, “In a fraternity, all tennis rackets, trousers and opinions are held in common”. Then goes oxymoron “comfortably immoral” . Everything depicts the doubtful reputation of the fraternity. The conversation between Martin and Ira Hinkley is spiced with antithesis “high ideals- tortured bodies” and oxymoron “rottenest advantages”.

But the most vivid is the description of Fatty Pfaff. Here Sinclair Lewis uses irony saying that he was “the most useful to Digamma Pi”, simile “ he looked like a distended hot – water bottle”, oxymoron “ he was magnificently imbecile”, bright enumeration “he believed everything, he knew nothing, he could memorize nothing”. All these stylistic devises help to create the vivid image of Fatty, his appearance and foolish innocence. On the example of this character the author shows stupid traditions and cruel behavior of the students.

But still in every company there is such butt to whom “thoughtful house-mates” (irony again) like to play tricks. The metaphor “the living room suggested a recent cyclone” is the most suitable for the description of Digamma Pi. Then goes the enumeration of a great many of things that can be found there. Everything is used to show the way of life of students. Sinclair Lewis is a master of stylistic devises. His irony is vivid, his metaphor is bright, he forces the reader to think over the most burning problems of education and the lifestyle of students at the same time entertaining the public.

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