What does Miller mean by "giving up the ghost"?
Possible Answer: This essay would explore the focus on death in Miller's book, and examine why Miller may refer to death with the phrase quoted above. Does "ghost" tinge it in a religious light? Miller does, after all, write of death (at least the metaphoric variety) in resurrection-inflected language, associating dying with being reborn.
Pick any single paragraph in Tropic of Capricorn and explicate it.
Possible Answer: This assignment demands that Miller's text be read as poetry. Yes, it is a novel; yes, a narrative is at play; moment by moment, however, Miller employs a kind of prose-poetry that is his alone, and his style, diction, and syntax deserve explication.
What seems to be Miller's view of religion in Tropic of Capricorn?
Possible Answer: Miller writes with contempt of the minister who abandons his father, but he does describe Grover Watrous, the devout convert, as the most joyful person he has known. He maintains a certain ambivalence about official religion, but does value spirituality, both in life and in art.
Why does Miller admire Roy Hamilton as much as he does?
Possible Answer: Miller writes that Hamilton lets him know himself in a deeper way. How exactly this happens, however, is unclear; Hamilton only occupies a small portion of the novel, and Miller offers few concrete details of his time with Hamilton. An essay would have to examine Miller's search for the self in the novel, and argue to what extent Hamilton contributes to that search.
Why is the book called Tropic of Capricorn?
Possible Answer: There is obviously no easy answer. An essay would have to acknowledge and perhaps analyze the passage toward the novel's end in which Miller refers to the "heating" and "cooling" systems of the world being one. "Cancer is separated from Capricorn only by an imaginary line," he writes.
Analyze Miller's reminiscences of his childhood.
Possible Answer: One can compare Miller's conjuring of memories from his early years to similar moves in Woolf, Proust, Joyce. One can also compare his idealization of a child's mind and spirit to Wordsworth. For Miller, childhood is a time of greater clarity, which must be regained as an adult.
Analyze the closing lines of the book: "We must get going. Tomorrow, tomorrow..."
Possible Answer: Miller, after delving into the past for his book, looks forward to the future. It is worth noting that he dates the manuscript: "September 1938/Villa Seurat, Paris."
Examine the ways in which Miller writes about sex.
Possible Answer: Sometimes drawing comedy from sexual situations, other times meditating on the need for human connection, Miller implicitly argues that sex is a multi-faceted and profoundly human act that warrants honest discussion and can inspire art.
Is Tropic of Capricorn an autobiography?
Possible Answer: Answering this will involve defining "autobiography" and testing the ways in which Capricorn may or may not fit the mold.
Discuss the character of Ulric, and his effect on Miller.
Possible Answer: Ulric appears briefly in Capricorn, but he plays a crucial role in Miller's development as a writer - simply by telling him of his travels in Europe. An essay would examine the power of the word as Miller sees it, and how Ulric helps reveal it.