Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*New York City

*New York City. City that represents the contradiction of opposites that must be annihilated for the self to emerge, and the spiritual and physical settings of the novel, ultimately, become the symbols and instruments imperative to crush and rebuild the false, imposed dream of society into the truthful vision of the artist. New York is a huge tomb, and among the human ants and human lice his “microcosmic life” is a reflection of the “outer chaos.”

Henry’s friends serve as dimensions of Henry himself that must be abandoned or transformed, and his long walks through New York’s streets and stores (Bloomingdale’s is an emblem of sickness and emptiness) become inner philosophical meditations on sex, death, religion, racism, and politics. He constructs spiritual universes within spiritual universes that harbor galaxies of doubts, fears, hopes, denials, and affirmations that explode and reform through annihilation and rebirth.

Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company

Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company. New York City company for which Henry works, hiring and firing messengers and other exploited workers. The company is heartless and inefficient, and mirrors, as does Henry’s job, the degradation imposed by the city on those who work simply to survive. The company, like the city and America, is a Darwinian jungle. Henry resists and plays Robin Hood, the mark of his defiant nature, evident since his childhood in Brooklyn....

(The entire section is 609 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Tropic of Capricorn has two narrative modes. The long opening section that describes Miller's experiences with the Cosmodemonic...

(The entire section is 439 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The theme of the triad which begins with Tropic of Capricorn is the struggle to shape artistic perception into narrative...

(The entire section is 241 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Miller's determination to explore the psyche is an example of one of literature's most basic and enduring archetypes. His interest in the...

(The entire section is 147 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Tropic of Capricorn is extended and continued with the novels Sexus (1949) and Nexus (1960) (see also separate entitled...

(The entire section is 20 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Brown, J. D. Henry Miller. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1986. Intersperses biography with criticism. Useful for placing the works in context of the life. Bibliography includes interviews.

Hassan, Ihab. The Literature of Silence: Henry Miller and Samuel Beckett. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967. Contains a brief but sound discussion of the themes and imagery of Tropic of Capricorn.

Lewis, Leon. Henry Miller: The Major Writings. New York: Schocken Books, 1986. The chapter on Tropic of Capricorn focuses on the author’s relationship with June Smith. The author intelligently answers those critics who accuse Miller of misogyny and pornography.

Wickes, George, ed. Henry Miller and the Critics. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963. Contains an incisive, unforgiving, and appreciative critique of Tropic of Capricorn.

Widmer, Kingsley. Henry Miller. Boston: Twayne, 1990. The most comprehensive introduction to Miller’s life and works, containing a chapter on the main themes of Tropic of Capricorn. Notes and bibliography.