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Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer


by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer Chapter 10 Summary

  • He gets fired from his job as a proofreader on the Fourth of July (there's freedom for you!). That means he has to leave his hotel and head back to the streets, walk around, kill time, and sit on benches.
  • Spending a lot of time on café terraces, he meets a lot of new people. But they're all drunks and bores who just want to gab in his ear.
  • Carl and Van Norden start to torment him about the possibility of his wife arriving now that he doesn't have a job. (Who needs enemies, right?)
  • He has to turn to his Jewish friends—they're the ones you can rely on.
  • He gets a job writing pseudonymous articles for a fur merchant. He writes pamphlets for a newly opened brothel and writes a thesis for a "deaf and dumb psychologist" (10.7). He also consents to be photographed in the nude—"with his pants down, and in other ways" (10.8) for what he is assured will be "a strictly private collection" (10.8). He winds up spending a good amount of time with the photographer, who knows the Paris that tourists don't know.
  • Through that guy, Miller meets a new group of expatriate artists, including Kruger, a "spiritual-minded" sculptor and painter. The guy sucks as an artist but is always willing—almost eager—to loan Henry a few francs.
  • He also meets Mark Swift, a "caustic" Irish painter. This one is torturing his mistress in the hope that she will leave him. He had used up her dowry and could no longer support her, so he had started to "antagonize" her so "that she would choose starvation rather than support his cruelties" (10.13). Wow, these people really are winners.
  • Henry hooks up with Fillmore, a young man in the diplomatic service. Miller likes Fillmore because he's always up for a good time. The guy talks too much, but at least he reads good authors, like Anatole France, Joseph Conrad, Byron, and Victor Hugo. (You can forgive anyone who reads good books, apparently.)
  • Henry, Fillmore, and his friend Collins start hanging out. Miller is really living it up.
  • One day, Henry gets sick—really sick—and the painter Kruger has to take care of him, making him broths and making sure he doesn't croak. It gets sticky, though, because Henry is just this limp body in the middle of Kruger's study and Kruger wants to have an exhibition.
  • Henry is just too sick to get out. Kruger is stressing that Henry's going to die and then he'll have a corpse in the middle of his exhibition. (Not good for business.)
  • Kruger dresses him and basically kicks him out, telling Henry that it's "for his own good" (10.23). Collins helps him get a hotel room and then entertains him with some strange story about China and syphilis, famine and disease.
  • Miller gets better, and, for the first time since his arrival in Paris, Miller takes an adventure beyond the boundaries of Paris.
  • He and Fillmore go to Le Havre, a port town in Brittany, to see a sailor and friend of Fillmore named Collins. They all chat about a character from a Proust novel (Baron de Charlus) as they make their way to Jimmie's Bar. Jimmie is some beet-faced man married to a buxom woman with glittering eyes. These two are a real dynamic duo.
  • Women are swarming around Henry and his friends. They all think Henry is a rich gentleman even though he doesn't have a "sou" (basically a cent) in his pocket.
  • Yvette—that's Jimmie's wife—is a friendly one. She puts together a nice spread for Henry and company. Henry starts chatting up some "lascivious bitch" named Marcelles.
  • Everyone is enjoying champagne and food. Marcelles and Henry are doing some dirty business under the table, and toasts are going all around.
  • In the midst of all of this merriment, Fillmore realizes he has the clap. Great! Collins has the cure—something called "Vénétienne."
  • They all take a stroll. Turns out Collins likes boys and begins to talk about some boy he had fallen in love with.
  • They roll into a brothel for a good time. Sure are packing a lot of events into their 48 hours in Le Havre.
  • Collins tells Miller and Fillmore that he dreams of returning to his old ranch in Idaho. He's gotta get out of Le Havre because Jimmie's wife has fallen in love with him and is having jealous fits. It's become too much.
  • While Miller and Fillmore are sleeping, Yvette has a fit about Collins and busts up the place. She gets wasted and violent, and she and Jimmie have an ugly smack down. "It was high time we were leaving" (10.59).
  • They become a little nostalgic about America, but Miller explains that it's best to just have America as an idea: "always in the background, a sort of picture post card which you look at in a weak moment" (10.59).

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