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Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer


by Henry Miller

Van Norden

Character Analysis

We have literally never heard a guy use the c-word more. Heck, his best friend even calls him "cunt struck "(1.14). Okay, so maybe Henry Miller uses it more.

Miller isn't too impressed with Van Norden—namely, he thinks he's a mediocre writer—so why does Henry hang out with this lonely, neurotic chap? And why is he the only character who receives an extended description? Everyone else is a memory, a feeling, or an impression, right?

Well, these two are a lot alike.

These two are a lot alike. They both lose themselves through sex, but don't like to be labeled for it. They both struggle with writing and finding meaning in life. So maybe Van Norden is around to reflect Henry back to himself. You know, to show Henry what his own behavior looks like from the outside. Though Henry says that Moldorf is his other (his foil), we're putting the burden on Van Norden.

Not convinced? Here's a test. Who said this: "All I ask of life is a bunch of books, a bunch of dreams, and a bunch of cunt" (8.18). Yep, it's Van Norden. But we wouldn't be surprised if you guessed Miller. We did, too.