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Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer


by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer Theme of Mortality and Death

It's no secret that in Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller is obsessed with sex. But what about that other obsession? You know—death. He actually associates the two pretty strongly; and for good reason, given that there are so many venereal diseases floating around. On a more general note, Miller—mostly through the figure of Boris—asserts that civilization has lost its grip on the life force and has been reduced to celebrating death. Looks to us like Henry is totally on board.

Questions About Mortality and Death

  1. According to the philosophy of Henry Miller, what does death have to do with creativity?
  2. Does Henry ever indicate a fear of dying? Why or why not?
  3. How does Henry mock death? Why do you think he does this? Is it a defense mechanism, or does he truly find it worth mocking?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Sex and death, sex and death. If you get a handle that these two things are important to Henry, you'll have it made. They both provoke equal measure of pleasure and horror for him, and they're at the center of Tropic of Cancer.

Henry believes he is witnessing the death of Western civilization. He also believes that he will live through it.

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