Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. French capital city to which the narrator has moved with the hope of becoming a writer. Tropic of Cancer is a largely autobiographical account of Henry Miller’s life and experiences in the south-central Parisian quarter of Montparnasse, from his arrival early in 1930 through 1932. Although Miller appears as himself, or at least a version of himself, his wife June is portrayed as Mona and his good friend Alfred Perlès as Carl. Colorful journalist Wambly Bald becomes the obsessive womanizer Van Norden. As the novel’s narrator, Miller is not consistent in his treatment of Paris; he portrays it from different viewpoints as his mood changes and as his acceptance of circumstances grows. Initially, he presents Paris as a symbol of everything he finds wrong with life-denying modern civilization: a “huge organism diseased in every part.” Some neighborhoods he describes as literal garbage heaps. Later, in the spring sun, the city looks different, and the narrator grows more content.

As a down-and-out writer, the narrator often has no place to stay; at such times, the streets of Paris become his refuge. Popular sidewalk cafés such as the Dôme, the Rotonde, and the Coupole provide him with vantage points from which he observes the city’s fascinating street life, hoping for the appearance of an acquaintance who may treat him to a drink or a meal.


Apartments. Parisian homes of the friends of the narrator, who is...

(The entire section is 617 words.)