Analysis of Fight Club
“While we are asleep in this world,
we are awake in another one.”
– Jorge Luis Borges
In the diabolically sharp novel, Fight Club, written by Chuck Palahniuk, the reader gets to experience a twisted adventure built on the foundation of the Fight Club. The first rule about Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. Characters Tyler Durden, Marla Singer, and the narrator form the dynamics of the novel. The second rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. The narrator weaves a grand tale in between smaller glimpses of his lifestyle and the relationships he forms. The third rule of Fight Flub is two men per fight. Throughout the novel, the nameless narrator subjects himself to the works of Tyler Durden and the Fight Club they form together. The fourth rule of Fight Club is one fight at a time. It becomes a game, a matter of following rules and trying to hit rock bottom. The fifth rule of Fight Club is no shoes, no shirts in the fight. Hitting rock bottom results in the narrator discovering that he has been projecting Tyler Durden as a part of reality, but rather the narrator is suffering from schizophrenia. The sixth rule of Fight club is the fights go on as long as they have to. Using all six of these rules, the characters of the novel, two of which being the same person, are intensified and bound to a different idea of living. The relationship of the narrator and his split personality is profound in how they both discuss topics that show Palahniuk’s views on gender identity and the role of men in society. The cultural identity of the male within Fight Club is distinctly formed between the relations he holds with the other characters of the book. The narrator is a male striving to achieve the ultimate idea of masculinity by using his ego as a motivator, and by destroying the other values in his life that have conformed too much to society.
In an interview with Dr. Michael Kimmel, a sociologist at State University of New York, masculinity was discussed with the framework of four main points. Like Fight Club, Kimmel gave rules to masculinity. The first rule of masculinity in Kimmel’s opinion is that men are not allowed the “sussy stuff,” (1) or the dramatic, flowery things normally related to women. Kimmel then gives his second point: “The second rule is to be a big wheel. You know, we measure masculinity by the size of you paycheck, wealth, power, status, things like that,” (1). The third rule, Kimmel says, is to be a “sturdy oak,” (1). This rule means that as a man, you should never show emotion. The fourth and final rule is critical in finding relation to Fight Club: “… Give ‘Em Hell. Always go forward, exude an aura of daring and aggression in everything that you do,” (Kimmel 1). The fourth rule is part of what keeps the Fight Club going and evolving into Project Mayhem. These four rules guide what masculinity is defined by, and can help show how Pahlaniuk uses this theme throughout Fight Club.
Palahniuk begins chapter two with the narrator at a support group for testicular cancer survivors. The character Big Bob is crying while the narrator is squished against his “bitch tits,” (Palahniuk 22). Bob had previously been a pumped-up, steroid-using bodybuilder. He currently had bitch tits because he was on hormone therapy that was causing his estrogen levels to go well beyond their normal levels (Palahniuk 21). The men in this particular support group are all missing their “manhood,” in which Bob particularly suffers from because his fall from grace was from his idea of what being a man should be; Bob said it was better than real life (22). This value of this scene in the beginning of the book sets the tone for the role that males have in society, and how they view themselves culturally.
Marla Singer, the main female lead within the novel is introduced as someone who has a great effect on the narrator because she is the “big tourist” and the “fake,” (Palahniuk 24). The narrator imagines how to approach a woman who is stealing his support groups form him, as he claims he cannot sleep when she is there. The first time Tyler meets Marla, there is a battle of jealousy within the narrator. The jealousy is not for the affections of Marla, as one would assume, but rather the narrator says, “How could I compete for Tyler’s attention,” (60). The narrator gives the subtle views of homosexuality and the taboo it can be within society. The narrator is unable to develop an action for his feelings, and his only way to present that to the reader is to show jealousy for Marla because of her close relation with Tyler. “It is not that the narrator loves Tyler, but cannot express it. Rather, the narrator has so identiﬁed with him, wants to be him, wants to be so close to him that any other object that competes with him for Tyler’s attention raises feelings of jealousy,” (Slade 234). The narrator also states that Tyler and Marla are never in the same room, hinting again at the fact that the narrator is the same person as Tyler. Regardless, the narrator relates the relationship of Marla and Tyler to the relationship of his own parents, saying that he never saw them in the same room, either (Palahniuk 66). As anyone could see, the example of how two people in a relationship should function in a healthy manor was not clear to the narrator, therefore making him even more susceptible to destructive decisions.
Marla is the opposite of masculinity. Marla and Tyler first meet because Marla took too many pills and may have overdosed. Tyler tries to play the knight and goes to save her (Palahniuk 60). In that scene, she is viewed as weak and emotional, playing her cards right to get attention. Marla’s mother is also seen as the stereotypical woman in society. She gets the fat sucked out of her, and Tyler finds a way to use it for his own soap business. Collagen given to Marla by her mother was what she expected to use in the future to stay beautiful.
Tyler Durden, as we find out near the end of the book, is the narrator’s alter ego. Tyler is everything that a man should be: fearless, manly, etc. The first meeting of the narrator and Tyler is important because it occurs on a nude beach in which Tyler is naked and sweaty, a trademark of man. He is in his caveman state, working on the beach to form something. Tyler works to make a shadow of a hand which he sits in at the appropriate time in order to fit perfectly in the perfectly made perfect shadow. Tyler then proceeds to say, “A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection,” (Palahniuk 33). The narrator also states within this scene something that foreshadows his mental illness: “If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person,” (33). This statement shows that the narrator had already begun to form the ideation of his second personality, in which he was projecting himself as. He sees Tyler as someone who can make perfection with his own hands, someone who is the quintessential man. His idolization of Tyler begins the very moment they meet. When the narrator is purging himself of his materialistic worshipping, he asks for deliverance from Tyler (Palahniuk 46). This shows that the narrator is looking to him as a savior, as an idol, thus forming the Fight Club.
Fight Club also has a motive for the cultural placement of men. “Just as Fight Club’s perpetuation and expansion depend upon the violation of its own first and second rules, masculinity risks its own annihilation by allowing for images, narratives, and practices that run counter to its alleged pretensions; to win hegemony, masculinity transcends its own boundaries, defies its own limitations, exists above its own rules,” (King 380). This translates to the idea behind Fight Club, and the existence of man as beings with a goal to fulfill self-improvement, or to aim for self-destruction. Fight club exists for the purpose of making men feel alive. “You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this same guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything,” (Palahniuk 51). The men that attend fight club are there to lose their design from society and to fall to their most natural instincts. “What you see at fight club is a generation of men raised by women,” (Palahniuk 50). Fight clubs challenges men to withdraw from society and into their own community. “Tyler is a man who is seeking a father, and when he cannot ﬁnd one worthy of functioning as a father, he becomes it and builds a communal world where he functions as the ubiquitous, authoritative patriarch,” (Slade 230). This statement includes the idea that these men have been formed without fathers as their example, and therefore did not develop into a masculine portrayal due to their upbringing but choose to idealize Tyler to be the sole example of what men and masculinity should be. “As a patriarchal society, we may not see the importance of the male figure and how he is brought to light in this book. The rejection of women is just another way to define their masculinity, all braided within the other rules of Fight Club.
Slade stated that the male gender identity is represented on the metonymy of manliness and cockiness. “Tyler’s father tells him to go to college, to get a job, to get married. Tyler judges this patriarchal and heterosexist form of masculinity, paradoxically, as castrating and feminizing. A generation of men raised by women need powerful father to set them straight,” (Slade 235). Palahniuk reasons with this idea by withdrawing the narrator from reality, and setting him on rock bottom. To encompass freedom in one philosophical statement, Tyler tells the narrator: “The liberator who destroys my property is fighting to save my spirit. The teacher who clears all possessions from my path will set me free,” (Palahniuk 110). In this statement, you see that Tyler considers himself the teacher. This quotation is said shortly after the narrator’s apartment building is blown up, and the Ikea life that the narrator lived is gone.
In the novel, Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk discusses many issues in society, but particularly among them the role of men is discussed and centered around. The Fight Club is meant to bring men into their more beastly, natural state—a state in which they were meant to be in in order to fulfill their idea of masculinity. The distractions in society are what make men become less masculine. Palahniuk uses the idea of rock bottom to get the characters of the novel to reach the message of the book. Women form masculinity **opposite of masculine** by how they raise their children and in how they relate to men. As each character of the book discovers rock bottom and the absence of fear, they are brought back to life like a phoenix, re-born from the ashes they are burned in. And as Palahniuk said, “Only after disaster can we be resurrected,” (70).
King, Claire Sisco. “It Cuts Both Ways: Fight Club, Masculinity, And Abject Hegemony.” Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies. 6.4 (2009): 366- 385.Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.
Interview with Michael Kimmel. “No Safe Place: Violence Against Women.” PBS. http://www.pbs.org/kued/nosafeplace/interv/kimmel.html
Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1996. Print.
Slade, Andrew. “To Live Like Fighting Cocks: Fight Club And The Ethics Of Masculinity.” Quarterly Review of Film & Video. 28.3 (2011): 230-238. EBSCO MegaFILE. 2 Dec. 2012. Web.
“The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.” Abiding by these rules in Fight Club is very important. Well, I have some news for you. This is not Fight Club. This is my review of Fight Club, and I’m going to blatantly break the first two rules. This in-your-face movie starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter, wanted you to break them after viewing it. The ending of Fight Club leaves you with so many things you just need to talk about. In the movie, though, it’s a completely different story. Everything I could possibly want from a movie is neatly packaged into an over-the-top, mentally stimulating, smart, raw, hilarious story of a man who is desperately trying to change his life for the better.
Edward Norton plays the narrator; we’ll call him Jack. At the end, you find out that his name is not really Jack, but this will work for right now. Jack unfortunately can’t make this big of a change in his life by himself. Without asking for his help, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) delivers in a very odd way, but it works out beautifully in the end. Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) is stuck in the middle of the two of them without knowing that Tyler and Jack are different people. She’s under the impression that Jack and Tyler are the same person. Throughout the entire movie practically, you have no idea why she would think that.
Jack and Tyler appear about as different as two people could possibly be. Tyler is fun, witty, sexy, and smart, he has a goal; a purpose, and he’s willing to help Jack hit rock bottom to see things from his point of view and understand that he, too, has a purpose. Jack on the other hand, is an insomniac. He lives in a condo, spending his time outside of his dead end job buying new furniture from home shopping networks, boning up his wardrobe, and generally leading a very boring life. He is smart, but he has a different perspective on life than Tyler does. As is said in the movie, Tyler is free in every way Jack is not. Jack is also not allowed to talk to Marla about Tyler at all, even though Marla knows more of Tyler than of Jack.
After dealing with his insomnia for quite a long time, by going to depressing self-help support groups for people dying of strange diseases and disorders (which is where he meets Marla), Jack comes home one night from a business trip to a very surprising sight. With nowhere else to go, he reluctantly calls his single serving friend, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), whom he’d met on this trip he just took. They go spend the night drinking at a bar. While talking, a point Tyler makes to Jack is that “the things you own end up owning you.”
This is an important point, because later during their quest for hitting rock bottom, this becomes a new value system for Jack. Material possessions seem to mean everything to the world. Tyler is already living a life that denies that value system completely. Before leaving, Tyler asks Jack to do him a favor. He wants for Jack to hit him as hard as he can– an interesting request, to say the very least. Jack does him the favor and then Tyler returns it, again, without Jack asking him to. This is the very first installment of Fight Club.
Jack ends up moving in with Tyler after the terrible tragedy of Jack’s condo being blown to bits (later we find out, by Tyler). This is a big change for Jack. Tyler occupies a disgusting, rundown, old house in the warehouse district, which takes Jack some time to get used to. Every night, after their days as members of society are over, they fight, just for fun. In time, with growing interest and desire to participate from passers by, Fight Club is born.
Now, the name of the movie would more than likely lead anyone to believe that this picture is violent, and it is violent, but not in an evil, maniacal way. In this movie, the violence is a release for white-collar workers who are sick of the world trying to convince them that if they work really hard, they will succeed, or that they could ever be special or unique. It is a chance for them to feel powerful, because in the end, having nothing to lose makes them powerful. But it’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. In Fight Club, it doesn’t matter what their job is, because during Fight Club they are different people, they no longer have anything to lose.
Tyler and Jack run the show. There are a few rules, though. They are not to be broken. As Fight Club escalates, Tyler starts giving out homework assignments to the members that call for destruction of property, defacing corporate art, and starting fights they are to lose, with perfect strangers. This last part is to prove the idea that most people will do just about anything to avoid a confrontation so extreme as fighting someone they don’t know over something stupid. These homework assignments are the reason why they can’t break the first two rules.
Fight Club does not exist. No one can know about Fight Club. After a few months, Fight Clubs start popping up all over the US, started by either Tyler or Jack, but Fight Club is no longer Fight Club. Fight Club itself has changed into Project Mayhem, led by Tyler. The plan is to wreak havoc all over the city, yet still have the members of Project Mayhem lead their daily lives. Jack becomes very distraught; Tyler never told him about Project Mayhem.
Now, I said that a few things were important at the end of the movie. The fact that Marla knows no difference between Jack and Tyler throws you for a loop when you find out that Tyler is really just a figment of Jack’s imagination. Throughout the whole movie, you don’t know Jack’s real name. He is never addressed in conversation as anyone, except once, but it’s pretty hard to catch. This is because in reality (in the movie) the narrator is Tyler Durden. They truly are the same person. This is why Jack is not allowed to talk to anyone, not just Marla, about Tyler. There are hints to this as you watch, and it’s very difficult to pick up on them the first time through.
I was blown away by this movie, the first time I saw it. I didn’t know quite what to think. This movie made me question the life I lead myself, and made me contemplate my existence more than any other movie had. That aspect still hasn’t been topped by any other movie. This movie was inspiring to me. It made me want to change my world. Therefore, this movie met all of my criteria. I was expecting Brad Pitt’s character to be very original; his character was definitely that. I wanted to see something that would make me think a lot. I wanted to see something that maybe I wouldn’t completely understand the first time. Fight Club was that, as well. I wanted to see a film that was smart, but not smart to the point where you feel dumb at the end for not knowing what’s going on. The plot twists were excellent, and the dialogue was clever and fun.
The message of the movie was so unique. I don’t think that it’s really possible to compare this movie to any other. To me, this movie lacks a genre because of its originality in plot. The cinematography was also wonderfully executed. After watching the movie, I felt so thwarted from not knowing that Tyler and Jack were one person, that instead of being annoyed, the only thing I could do was laugh about it. Then I watched it again. I would highly recommend that you do the same. I promise you that the only reason why you wouldn’t enjoy Fight Club is if you happen to be a complete moron. I highly doubt that too, if you happen to be reading this. But, one last thing, watch it and then just try to tell me it wasn’t a masterpiece. Try to tell me that it’s not worth talking about.
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