© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer

by Henry Miller

Time Theme

Ah, modernism. These guys and gals just loved thinking about and playing with time. In Tropic of Cancer, Miller references everything from the prehistoric era to a future filled with robots. And he does it in a totally nonlinear way, flashing back without notice so we suddenly find ourselves lost in a story with no clue when we are. That, combined with his vague philosophical statements about time make for a hazy and almost hallucinatory story.

Questions About Time

  1. What scares Miller more—the past or the future? Is he really ever able to live in the present?
  2. Check out how many different verb tenses Miller uses. Where is he in time? We dare you to make a timeline tracking the various stories he tells.
  3. In what way is Miller's use of flashbacks a way for him to comment philosophically on time?

Chew on This

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

By dwelling so much on the past, Henry believes he can protect himself from the future.

In Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller is trying to escape the bounds of time.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement