Henry Miller, the narrative consciousness of the novel, a somewhat transformed, semiautobiographical elaboration of the author. He is a man of indeterminate middle age, an indigent, aspiring writer who is visiting Europe to escape from the conditions of life in the United States, which he believes are responsible for his artistic and economic failures. After trying to conform to the conventional rules and requirements of middle-class society in America, he is struggling to survive as a kind of underground man in the bohemian realms of Paris. Convinced that his true nature has been suppressed by his failed attempts at various mundane jobs and two marriages, he has recast himself as an artist/hero, a rebel, and a kind of gangster of erotic aggression. He is mostly appetite, for both sex and food. Although it is not as immediately apparent, he is also a man of feeling and sensitivity. He is essentially an observer; he demonstrates his kinship with the historical tradition of great art in Paris through his extremely inventive use of language, employing verbal styles of expression charged with the energy of the anger and joy with which he confronts everything. His spirit remains strong in the midst of conditions that crush nearly everyone else with whom he associates. His heartfelt tributes to the subtle beauties of the city, its architecture, and its rivers and streets register his deeper, more humane and more gentle side. As he progresses through the eighteen months or so that the novel covers, the manner in which he skips from one incident, episode, and location to another suggests entries in a journal, a record of the final phases of his development as the artist who...
(The entire section is 693 words.)