'Fight Club' - A model of a social revolution

Seminar Paper, 2004

43 Pages, Grade: Sehr gut


Table of content

1. Approaching ‘Fight Club’
1.1. Somnambulism as a basis for ‘Fight Club’
1.2. About the author Chuck Palahniuk
1.3. The story

2. Introducing the main characters
2.1. The narrator – An everyman figure
2.2. Marla Singer - A woman in a man’s world
2.3. Tyler Durden – A modern revolutionary

3. The Revolution of Tyler Durden
3.1. ‘Fight Club ‘s’ depiction of our society
3.2. Tyler’s means to overthrow the system
3.3. Tyler’s idea of a perfect world
3.4. Religion in the way of ‘Fight Club’
3.5. The interior versus the exterior revolution

4. Analysis and final evaluation of ‘Fight Club’
4.1. All is well that ends well? – A look at the outcome
4.2. Effective writing – the language of ‘Fight Club’
4.3. Employing ‘Fight Club’

Table of Literature

1. Approaching ‘Fight Club’

1.1. Somnambulism as a basis for ‘Fight Club’

I’m no good at remembering dreams. The second I wake up they elude my grasp of mind and all that is left is a shabby outline I’m incapable of stringing together.

This is why I instantly connected to ‘Fight Club’.

At the time I was a kid I used to walk in my sleep, of course, without realizing it firsthand. The fact that I had absolutely no control over these nightly happenings and couldn’t sidestep them was scary enough already. Finding out that other somnambulists would even try to leap out the window or develop compulsive disorders such as gluttony didn’t ease the situation.

When we dream, we weave the experiences me made throughout the preceding day into dreams in an effort to deal with them. This is an automatic mechanism our brain is conducting when given the chance to rest and it’s vital for the human psyche in terms of information management. That’s why ‘Sleep over it!’ is good advice. Because only at night do we really assess the offenses, the ignoring and the compliments we take during the day. As the phase of rapid eye movement (REM) sets in, our brain can unleash all the piled up emotions we were too shy to act out in front of others – or even ourselves – in a most vivid fantasy that lives up to console our senses.

As for sleepwalking, this is to ordinary dreaming what reading a script is to actually acting it on stage. It’s not a matter of efficiency, it’s all about technique, or maybe preference even. It seems that for some people the amount of emotional distress is so great that their instincts demand release beyond the virtual, thus turning them into somnambulists.

In so many respects, ‘Fight Club’ feels to have been born on similar grounds. It takes the sleepwalking idea up a notch, expanding it onto a whole different level of meaning and possibilities and all of a sudden we face revelations upon daring insights and are brought to ponder the very meaning of life itself and…Yes, I know, one thing at a time. Let me just point out that from some twisted perspective this is solace for everybody who suffers from somnambulism in a sense that things could be worse, much worse in fact.

To begin with, I’d like you to join me on Chuck Palahniuk’s terminal roller-coaster ride towards hitting bottom with special focus on unveiling the social revolution buried inside.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to ‘Fight Club’.

1.2. About the author Chuck Palahniuk

“I’m not really into comfort books. They have value like Paxil has value, but there’s plenty of them in the world already. There’s a shortage of confronting, stimulating, exciting books.” (4, Palahniuk, Chuck)

Just for the record, Chuck Palahniuk (to spare you the guessing, it’s pronounced like Paula-Nick) was born on February 21st in 1962. He is average tall, has brown hair and green eyes. Palahniuk derives from Ukraine origins. There is little knowledge of and even less interest in his past, which doesn’t imply that there is no interest in him at all. In fact, there’s a heart-sworn community that literally dissects every word to come from their idol, always hungry for more. To show his appreciation, he spends a great deal of time on his fan-base, supplying them with current essays that he publishes on the internet for free and, to answer fan mail in an affordable, yet satisfying amount of time, every once in a while he locks himself up in a hotel for about a month and does nothing but write replies. Considering myself to be one of his dearest followers, I wrote to him and promptly got a response in the shape of a package filled with randomly but handpicked items mostly signed or personalized in some way by Chuck himself, not to forget the two page letter that answered my every question. I shall bring this letter up as research demands it.

Chuck Palahniuk is the kind of guy who, when he is to hold a speech at a conference, enters the room, kicks off his shoes, has a seat on the table and then doesn’t hold back with honesty until you can’t help but just like the fellow. In Fugitives & Refugees, a personal tour-guide through Portland, Oregon, which is as close to a biography as he will probably ever write, he’s telling some oddball stories that involve doing LSD at a rock concert, casually participating in a backdoor porn movie and joining a Santa-look-a-likes rampage in his hometown – a tradition, as he explains. It’s just these kinds of stories that you expect from the lad responsible for such outrageous books as Palahniuk is - or just the other way round. In fact, most of ‘Fight Club’ is either based on self-experimenting or a selection of experiences of his friends. The idea of getting beaten up as some sort of social activity, well, let’s just say it didn’t come out of the blue. Close to every character you can find in his books is a person he knows in real life, maybe a bit molded to suit the purpose, but basically not contrived. It’s these details that add another layer of credibility to his works.

Unlike most writers I have heard of, he has made it a principal to have company, if not a whole party surrounding him, when he’s in the process of writing.

Chuck Palahniuk has specialized in exposing social flaws and mishaps in the most bashing of ways, the comedic. His humor is absolutely devastating, for it’s us who he’s laughing at and worst of all, he’s right to do so. However, his works are rarely depressing, often funny (a sense for dark humor is required, though) and always enlightening. His heroes, if such, are always outcasts, unable to connect to the world they’re forced to cope with. Through them we see on the one hand how we’re mistreating people who don’t follow the masses and on the other hand how we’ve let external forces determine our lifestyle.

In case you’ve already read one of his books you will know what to expect from ‘Fight Club’ – and be wrong in countless of ways.

His sequence of books in order of release to date is as follows. His debut novel ‘Fight Club’ started selling in 1996. In 1999 it was turned into a critically acclaimed movie directed by David Fincher (Alien3, Se7en, The Game, Panic Room) starring Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden, Edward Norton as the narrator and Helena Bonham Carter as Marla Singer. The screenplay was adapted by Jim Uhls – Palahniuk doesn’t consider himself an option when it comes to writing screenplays. In my humble opinion ‘Fight Club’ is one of those rare movies that succeed at making the transition from book to screen with disappointing neither the reader, nor the maiden spectator. Chuck Palahniuk himself saw to it that his work wouldn’t get ravished over and surely contributed to the outcome.

His second achievement, only shortly before the movie version of ‘Fight Club’ premiered, was ‘Survivor’, which takes a slap at religious cults while unveiling the machinery of mass media control.

Number three in his bibliography is ‘Invisible Monsters’ (1999), a gender play of the dark kind. For the fist time, Palahniuk chooses the perspective of a female, or does he? In case you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean, otherwise I recommend finding out.

In his fourth invention called ‘Choke’ (2001) he picks up where he left with ‘Fight Club’, but this time the story centers on a sex addict, whose unstable childhood might keep him from making profound social connections, while his now mentally degrading mother would recognize everyone but him.

With ‘Lullaby’ (2002) Palahniuk makes a change in genres. His new obsessions are haunting, if not haunted stories. This one follows a newspaper reporter who is doing research on SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and stumbles upon a whole collection of poems that bear magical powers. All at once he finds himself in the position of stopping these spells from arousing awareness. It’s a habit with Palahniuk that even here he finds the space to add social commentary.

His latest novel to date is ‘Diary’ (2003), an out-of-control contemplation of the world of art and inspiration building up to what I found to be a rather unsatisfying conclusion.

To complete the list, there are two more works to be found by Chuck Palahniuk, ‘Fugitives & Refugees’ (2003), which I have mentioned before and ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, a collection of journalistic essays on social extravagances. They both focus on non-fictional content, but if you’re a Palahniuk disciple they’re must-reads, if only for the Palahniuk-esque style.

Although this is the sequence in which his books were published, it is not the sequence in which they were conceived. Palahniuk’s first attempt was ‘Invisible Monsters’ (the original title was ‘Manifesto’), but was turned down by the publisher. Out of anger he wrote ‘Fight Club’ as part of a writing seminar and to his surprise the publishers agreed to print it. Only three years later they would even accept a reedited version of ‘Invisible Monsters’. But it wasn’t until his fifth book, ‘Lullaby’, that Chuck became a full-time author. Before, he had been working as a diesel mechanic for Freightliner exercising his prose as no more than an ambitious hobby.

If there was an award for fast writing, I’m sure Palahniuk would at least make it to the nominees. ‘Fight Club’ took him three months, ‘Survivor’ four. He spent six months working on ‘Choke’ and was able to finish ‘Lullaby’ after only six weeks.

Today, he is living on a ranch in Portland, Oregon, which serves as a writing retreat as well as a meeting place for his friends. Except for Lullaby the rights to all of his books have been sold to film companies and the ‘Survivor’ movie is due 2006. After only eight years in business a documentary called ‘A postcard from the future’ has already been made about Chuck Palahniuk.

Here is an author who is young, vigilant and always willing to take the risk of creating something new. Palahniuk is a voice certainly to be reckoned with.

(5, Frequently asked questions about Chuck Palahniuk)

1.3. The story

Wherever and whenever exactly it is that the story of ‘Fight Club’ unfolds, it’s a major city of the USA in the modern days. We are led to believe, I guess, this could happen in any city, anytime. Just so you know, the book does some anticipating, yet artistic time leaps, but I will tell the story in chronological order of events.

The book starts out on a nameless narrator at the age of 30. He’s a recall campaign coordinator, which means that whenever a car of his company (this time, I suppose, we get no name for reasons that would involve trademark violation) crashes due to production failures, he has to apply a certain formula to check whether it’s cheaper to take the affected cars back or go for an out-of-court settlement. His life is neatly arranged. He owns a condominium that has functional yet fashionable furniture made by IKEA and he loves every part of it. His problem is that he’s suffering from insomnia, which causes his perception to blur to such a degree that he is incapable of telling the difference between dream and reality. He seeks help from a doctor, but instead of a medical treatment he is sent to a self-support groups for terminal illnesses. “To see real pain”(1, Palahniuk, Chuck, Fight Club, Vintage 1997, p. 19), the doctor advises. So he does and finds unexpected comfort in the presence of near death and a new friend called Robert “Bob” Paulsen, who is struck with testicular cancer and an estrogen overdose causing him to develop breasts. He is cured from his insomnia until after two years a woman named Marla Singer invades his morbid vacation retreat. With her mirroring him as a fraud, he is rendered unable to connect to the dying souls around him; his insomnia returns and it’s at this point that he meets a person named Tyler Durden. His profession is movie projectionist and maybe it’s just entertainment or rebellion or both, but he abuses his job to paste single frames of pornography into family movies.

Giving away the major plot twist would be cheating, but in order for you to keep track, I will cheat. Tyler is the second part of the narrator’s split personality. The narrator pretty much hates every aspect of his life, especially his bee-like role in this profit oriented world, but is too restrained to take the initial steps for a change. Therefore he creates Tyler who is everything he would like to but cannot be. When he takes over – picture this in the schizophrenic Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde role switching way – the narrator thinks he has fallen asleep and when he awakes in a completely different location, he is bewildered, but his lack of sleep and thus reason keeps him from asking the right questions.

So, whenever I speak of Tyler Durden, remember that he is entirely imaginary.

This brief but highly decisive meeting causes the narrator to turn towards Tyler when his condominium is blown to peaces for unknown reasons, yet. They meet in a bar, have a few beers and eventually Tyler asks the turning point question. “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” (1, p. 46) They engage in a fight, but their struggle is not about who will win, it is about letting go of all your aggression you have piled up inside yourself, it is about getting to know yourself and what you’re capable of doing and, above all, it is about breaking from your oh so perfect life to make something better out of it, because “only after disaster can we be resurrected” (1, p. 70). Soon their backdoor brawls attract other men in equally desperate situations willing to join in on their rebellion so they form a club – fight club – that meets in the basement of a bar. Tyler puts up the rules. (1, p. 48 ff.)

1. You don’t talk about fight club.
2. You don’t talk about fight club.
3. Two men per fight.
4. One fight at a time.
5. No shoes no shirts.
6. Fights go on as long as they have to.
7. If this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight.

This is all working out until one day the narrator – he’s moved in with Tyler by now - rings up Marla Singer, the support group invasion. She is on the verge of suicide and Tyler feels enough compassion to rescue her. Before long they engage in a merely sexual relationship, which arouses the narrator’s jealousy and once again Marla is about to invade and take away what he loves. The narrator and Tyler and Marla develop into some sort of couple of three. The narrator wants Tyler, but rejects Marla for obvious reasons. Marla wants Tyler (meaning the alter-ego of the narrator), but she doesn’t realize she’s facing a split personality of which one part hates her and the other uses her for, well, release.

Tyler’s plan is to commence now. In order to make soap, which they sell, and the basics for explosives (I’ll get to the details later) Tyler and the narrator provide fat and lye. They start a business called the Paper Street Soap Company (according to the street they live in). As an expression of their rebellion against society they abuse their low-class waiter jobs in high-class restaurants to taint the food with bodily fluids. Bit by bit the narrator transforms into Tyler Durden, which has probably been his basic motive for creating him; a tiny mouse’s hole out of this society he would have to learn fit through.

He decides to revisit the support groups just to find out that his prior resort has been dissolved. Bob, his old friend, has been sent to inform anyone who would show up. In a typical catch-up conversation he finds out for worse that Bob has become a member of fight club as well. Still unaware of the double existence she’s dealing with, Marla calls the narrator for a breast examination – she fears to have discovered a lump – and it’s in this scene that the narrator slowly warms up to her; they share an open conversation about how their lives have always been miserable.

Next step is a visit at both Tyler’s and the narrator’s boss. Their goal is to stop working but still keep the cash-flow, so they threaten the manager of the Pressman Hotel to go public with what they did to the food that was served to and eaten by the equally rich and important guests and as for the president of the projectionist union, Tyler has to beat himself up to give the image of being attacked to the security guards outside. Both their plans succeed.

With fight club ever expanding, phase two of Tyler’s plan is taking action now, Project Mayhem, which is an organization of fight club members that sets out to remind society of its mishaps by spreading pandemonium. It’s divided into subgroups, Arson, Assault, Mischief, and Misinformation. For each member Tyler gives out homework assignments that include starting a fight and losing it – the intention is to show regular people what power lies within them – or acquiring a gun.

As an analogy to fight club, Project Mayhem has its own rules. (1, p. 122 ff.)

1. You don’t ask questions.
2. You don’t ask questions.
3. No excuses.
4. No lies.
5. You have to trust Tyler.

Since their house is big enough, Tyler decides to have this elite committee operate in their Paper Street residence. Each applicant has to pass an entry test and provide the basics for his survival. Soon the house is stacked full of eager cult members making bathtub loads of soap to get the byproducts that are crucial for making explosives. It’s at that point that Tyler all of a sudden vanishes and the narrator is left clueless about what to do. But still you can see the traces of Tyler’s work, which suggests he has merely gone into hiding. The space monkeys, as the members are referred to by the narrator, because their tasks illustrate a similar complexity as the tasks the first monkeys in space were trained to perform, have created an independent biosphere embracing a garden of weeds and lectures about the mind-set they are supposed to embody. In the meanwhile Marla is giving periodic visits to the narrator (of course he is still Tyler Durden to her) and since they both feel forlorn in this new world, they flock together.

Tyler reappears giving the narrator a call and telling him to get into a car that is waiting for him out front. In a near death experience some mechanic, a member, of course, deliberately steers the car to slightly bump a truck. An instant before impact, he asks for last wishes and having no idea what to answer, the narrator opts to get rid of his job. Their genuine errand is to steal fat from a liposuction clinic.

It’s time for the big revelation now. The narrator is traveling the country as a job effort. To his surprise he is addressed as Mr. Durden throughout his journey. He calls Marla for clarity and while she’s confused about him asking questions all too obvious to her, Tyler removes all doubts himself. In a simultaneous effort, Tyler explains about his double existence and reports of how they solved the problem of growing state awareness concerning Project Mayhem. They threatened the police commissioner to cut off his testicles if he wouldn’t concede. Directly after the confusion is about to clear, the narrator has a talk with Marla filling her in on the situation he’s facing. Having dated even stranger guys before, Marla isn’t affected much by a split personality. Out of fear that Tyler might still take more radical steps, Marla is advised to keep track of Tyler while he’s in control. When Bob is killed on an assignment of Project Mayhem, the narrator is trying to use his leader position in a futile effort to put a stop to it, but Tyler has already taken preparations against it.


Excerpt out of 43 pages


'Fight Club' - A model of a social revolution
University of Augsburg
Sehr gut
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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528 KB
Fight, Club
Quote paper
Johannes Hell (Author), 2004, 'Fight Club' - A model of a social revolution, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/37698


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