Study Guide

Tropic of Cancer Chapter 5

By Henry Miller

Chapter 5

  • The narrator recalls his last dinner at Sylvester's ("the dramatist") home.
  • The narrator has worked out a sweet deal for himself where he has dinner at a different friend's house every day of the week, just rotating on through and getting what he can.
  • Sylvester talks way too much, blabbing on about food, wine, literature, weather—he is starting to drive Tania nuts. Tania has told the narrator that Sylvester's talking is like "a steady stream of warm piss, as though his bladder had been punctured" (5.3).
  • The narrator is jealous that this blowhard has the woman he loves, but they are going to Russia soon anyway.
  • We have a real motley crew here—"crazy Russians, a drunken Dutchman, and a big Bulgarian woman named Olga" (5.6). The narrator's Russian friends are Eugene and Anatole.
  • Paris brings out strange feelings in the narrator: "I can feel the city palpitating, as if it were a heart just removed from a warm body" (5.16).
  • He visits his boorish friend Papini—who had read a crazy long list of books from Homer to Huxley by the age of 18. This guy likes to talk, too, and offers a big monologue on freedom.
  • Ah, pretention.