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Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer

by Henry Miller

Analysis: Three-Act Plot Analysis

For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.

Act I

Henry's living large and little all at the same time. Sure he's starving and risks getting the clap with every liaison he has, but he wouldn't have it any other way. His friends help him get some odd jobs, and he settles into the tedium of proofreading. But when he gets fired, things start getting real.

Act II

So the whole Dijon gig isn't so great after all. Henry thinks at least he won't have to struggle as much. But between the whole tipping your hat to everyone ritual and the empty cafés, he can't take it. His success as a lecturer isn't enough to keep him there. Paris, here he comes.

Act III

Henry is full of relief back in Paris. He gets into all sorts of shenanigans with his friends—one impregnates a minor, the other impregnates a shrew. But Henry steps up and provides the moral support his friends need. He helps his friend Fillmore man up and get out of Dodge. And in the end, he's all the better—and all the richer—for putting himself out there.

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