Tropic of Cancer Study Guide

Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer is a novel by Henry Miller which recounts his experiences living in Paris in the 1930s, written in a style that blurs the line between fact and fiction. Miller tells of his travels and interactions with characters such as Fillmore, Mona, Nanantatee, and Tania in this vivid account of living in Paris before WWII. The book, which is notorious for its explicit sex scenes, explores themes of friendship, nationality, poverty, and sexuality.

Set in France (primarily Paris) during the late 1920s and early 1930s, Tropic of Cancer centers on Miller's life as a struggling writer. Late in the novel, Miller explains his artistic approach to writing the book itself, stating:

Up to the present, my idea of collaborating with myself has been to get off the gold standard of literature. My idea briefly has been to present a resurrection of the emotions, to depict the conduct of a human being in the stratosphere of ideas, that is, in the grip of delirium.

Combining autobiography and fiction, some chapters follow a narrative of some kind and refer to Miller's actual friends, colleagues, and workplaces; others are written as stream-of-consciousness reflections that are occasionally epiphanic. The novel is written in the first person, as are many of Miller's other novels, and does not have a linear organization, but rather fluctuates frequently between the past and present.

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