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Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer

by Henry Miller

Poverty Theme

In Tropic of Cancer, Miller survives day to day, meal to meal, hotel room to hotel room, and prostitute to prostitute. But it seems like poverty is more of a blessing than a curse for Henry. It serves as the basis for many of his friendships and bonds, and at the beginning of the novel, he declares: "I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive" (1.3). Poverty just doesn't seem to bother him—it's all part of the beauty of Paris. But, of course, while he celebrates everything from poverty and disease to filth and physical deformity, being poor in America is a whole different deal. We get it, Hank. The U.S. ain't all that.

Questions About Poverty

  1. What exactly is it about poverty that make Henry Miller thrive?
  2. If Henry thinks poverty is so great, why does he keep Fillmore's money in the end?
  3. Does Miller romanticize poverty in Tropic of Cancer? Or is it really just that awesome for him?

Chew on This

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

Henry makes a connection between artistic authenticity and poverty. In other words, high rollers just can't be "real" artists.

Henry can handle poverty as long as he has the ideas of good writers and artists. All he needs is Matisse, Hugo, Whitman, and Emerson—that's enough nourishment to get him through.

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