Revisiting “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk

“Fight Club” is one of the most beloved books Chuck Palahniuk has ever released (besides “Choke and “Lullaby”) according to “”. Partly because of the great movie adaptation of the book, directed by  David Fincher. It introduced fans of the movie to the book, partly because of the strong, timeless themes of masculinity, dissatisfaction with society, criticism towards culture of consumerism, and the mindset of revolution . So, let’s break this book apart page by page to understand its core themes. Remember not to break the first two rules of Fight Club because we are jumping head first to the crazy story of nameless narrator and his best friend,Tyler Durden.

To make the following article easier to understand, It is necessary to recapture the plot of the book (only the first few chapters,to provide some context). “Fight Club” tells the  story of the nameless person (I’ll call him a narrator from now on) suffering from insomnia, while he “suffers” his doctor tells him to visit a support group for men suffering from testicular cancer. So the narrator does what the doctor says, and after seeing that his life isn’t that bad compared to the life he lives, after that the narrator finally can sleep. This monotonous cycle of relief by watching people suffer stops when a woman called Marla Singer appears in this support group, and the narrator can’t sleep again because he can’t coexist with her in the support group. 

During these chapters in the book the author gives a lot of criticism on society and primarily consumerism. Pointless buying of unneeded furniture, dishes, jewelry… “Single-served” shampoos conditioners, and even people you meet on the plane during business trips from city to city are “single-served” too. Speaking of business trips…

The Narrator works as a private-sector bureaucrat in a heartless corporate organization that decides whether to recall faulty automobiles or let the drivers crash, in his job dead people represent data he has to collect. The Narrator understands that he is too just a data point that is going to be collected, that makes him think that we all are not special, that he is just a cog in this machine called life, and he is literary flying through life waking up tired in different flights he has for his job. He wakes up in airports around America. He wonders, “If you can suddenly wake up in different places, why can’t you wake up as a different person”.

On weekends, the Narrator was laying on the beach, and began a little talk with Tyler Durden. Tyler is smart, charming, successful, and not trapped in his comfort zone, and he is the guy who will become friends with narrator for a while. The next thing that happened is the narrator’s apartments explodes. The Narrator is shocked because he has nowhere to live. So he calls Tyler, asking to stay at his house for a night. Tyler agrees, but only after the Narrator does him a favor. The favor is to hit Tyler as hard the Narrator possibly can. Tyler and the Narrator begin a fight together. They decide to create (drum roll please) Fight Club, a place for men who are tired of their repetitive life and want to get out all the anger they have built up.

Fight club represents the lack of masculinity that grows into a toxic masculinity over time. That is exactly what happens towards the end of the book when Tyler organizes the “Project Mayhem”. The purpose of this project is to destroy existing society and build a new one through chaos and childish, toxic aggression.  “We are the generation of boys raised by women… Our great depression is our existence” says Tyler. In the context of the story this might mean that boys who don’t have a father figure to guide them are more likely not to learn how to be men, to get out of their comfort zone, to overcome fears and move forward. That’s some of them can’t find the meaning in their existence. These boys never grow up, they’re angry, and the only way out they find is violence. And instead of becoming better people than their fathers, or if they didn’t have one, to move forward and learn life by themselves and become a great people. So sad they don’t do it.

The Absence of a father figure is the main theme of the whole narrative of the book where Tyler is a father figure, and the Narrator is a child who is desperate for the attention. And when Tyler left the Narrator it is the repetition of  the event that happened in his childhood. The Narrator’s father left his family when he was 5 years old. This event was one of the catalysts for creating Fight Club.

As you can see, the main thing this book (or movie) might teach us is to find ways to a meaningful life without violence.