You are not your job. You are not how much you have in the bank. You are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your khakis. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. What happens first is you cant sleep. What happens then is theres a gun in your mouth. And what happens next is you meet Tyler Durden. Let me tell you about Tyler. He had a plan. In Tyler we trusted. Tyler says the things you own, end up owning you.
Its only after youve lost everything that youre free to do anything. Fight Club represents that kind of freedom. First rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club. Second rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club. Tyler says self-improvement is masturbation. Tyler says self-destruction might be the answer. The novel Fight Club, by Jack Palahniuk was published in 1996 and released as a motion picture starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in October of 1999.
Both the novel and motion picture proved to be very successful in their release to the public for one simple reason: Fight Club is a reflection of the suffering experienced by the Generation X male who feels trapped in a world of the grey-collar (or service) working-class, a world filled with materialism and distractions, a group of men raised in single-parent families often devoid of a male role-model, and a world where there is no great cause for the average North American male to fight for.
Whether consciously, or subconsciously, the average Generation X male of modern society can relate to and understand Fight Club, which makes both the novel and motion picture such an important proclamation regarding the state of our modern culture. In Fight Club, we meet our main character who comes to us without a name. He can be referred to as Jack but his name is not important. He comes to us without a name because he represents any man, any one of those Generation X males living in our society at present.
Jack is a thirty-year old man employed as a recall coordinator for a major automobile company. He lives in a condo that is furnished with all the comforts of modern society, namely mass-produced furnishings that can be found in the homes of millions across North America. Jack owns a car and has obtained a respectable wardrobe for himself over the course of time. Despite all of these things, Jack is not satisfied with his life. He feels unhappy, unfulfilled, and trapped in the depths of chronic insomnia.
Jack asks his doctor for help with his insomnia and receives the response that if he wants to see real pain, he should attend some of the support groups at a local church. So Jack attends these support groups, in fact he starts to attend them religiously using pseudonyms and pretending he belongs. Jack frequents groups for men with testicular cancer, groups for sufferers of brain parasites, and blood parasites among other groups for disease sufferers, and suddenly Jack finds he can sleep again.
The support groups give Jack a sense of belonging, a sense of being important to others as he expresses on page 107 of the novel: This is why I loved the support groups so much. If people thought you were dying, they gave you their full attention. If this might be the last time they saw you, they really saw youPeople listened instead of just waiting for their turn to speak. And when they spoke, they werent telling you a story. When the two of you talked, you were building something, and afterward you were both different than before.
It is implied that Jack feels frustrated with others in his life, feeling as if they are too caught up with their own preoccupations to truly care about how Jack feels, what is happening to him, and what he needs and wants in life. It is implied that the average Generation X male also feels this way and has difficulty coping in a society where people are too busy to listen. Jacks attendance at the support group meetings continues to fill one of the voids in his life until he meets the character of Marla Singer, who has begun to frequent all of the support group meetings, just as Jack does.
Jack becomes enraged with the presence of Marla, as he sees her as a symbol of the lie he has been living and fears that through Marla, he will be exposed as a faker. Jack confronts Marla and they agree to share the meetings, by dividing them up between them. As long as Jack is not confronted with the sight of Marla he feels comfortable in continuing his attendance at the meetings, and carrying out the role of a person living at deaths door. During Jacks attendance at his weekly parasitic brain dysfunction group, he also discovers another way of dealing with some of his problems, through the use of guided meditation.
During the meeting a member steps forward to lead the group on a journey of the mind, during which those participating are mentally lead through various coloured doors, which lead to a cave, which contains their power animal. This animal is a symbol of their personal power to overcome all obstacles they encounter in life. Jack discovers that his power animal is a penguin that offers Jack the verbal suggestion to slide. The fact that Jacks power animal is a penguin is actually extremely significant. Through analysis of the penguin, it is noted that penguins, though part of the bird species, cannot fly.
Jack is part of the human species, yet he does not grasp what he can do. He feels restricted by his walls and has essentially made himself a cave to dwell in where the simple decisions of everyday life have been robbed from him. The penguin is also symbolic in that penguins are also very drone-like. There has always been the old joke that penguins appear as if they are wearing little black and white suits, which would symbolize the suit and tie environment that Jack works in each day, an environment that Jack feels to be stifling.
The last important detail about the penguin is that penguins are content in their atmosphere and travel in flocks. They do not stray far from their homes and baby penguins stick close to their mothers. This is especially reflective of the life that Jack leads. Jack feels as if he is just one of the masses travelling in a flock and not thinking for himself. He also has issues with his upbringing, as it is later revealed that Jack was raised by his mother in a single-parent family, having been abandoned by his father at a young age.
The next major event that occurs in Jacks life, although he is unaware of it at the time, is meeting Tyler Durden. It is interesting to note that the author seems to have carefully chosen the name of this character, as an analysis of the name Tyler Durden reveals that in antiquated English, Tyler means gatekeeper or house builder, and Durden has the root dour meaning hard, as in durable, both which are descriptive of his personality. Although the novel and motion picture do not project the same circumstances under which Jack and Tyler meet, it is most interestingly projected in the novel.
Jack awakes on a beach in the summertime to find Tyler pulling driftwood out of the surf and dragging it to the beach, then implanting the logs in the sand, forming a semi-circle. Tyler asks Jack what time it is and draws a line in the sand with a stick. Tylers creation is explained in the novel (page 33) as follows: What Tyler had created was the shadow of a giant hand. Only now the fingers were Nosferatu-long and the thumb was too short, but he said how at exactly four-thirty the hand was perfect.
The giant shadow hand was perfect for one minute, and for one perfect minute Tyler had sat in the palm of perfection hed created himselfOne minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection. This scene is especially important and foreshadows the future for Jack and Tyler. It is indicative of Tylers personality, and goal (that later surfaces) of achieving just a moment of what he considers to be perfection in society.
The giant hand symbolizes the world, and Tyler sitting within the giant hand symbolizes his wish to control the future of the world for just one tiny perfect moment. Shortly following Jacks discovery of Tyler, he partakes on an extended business trip. Upon his return he discovers that his precious condominium containing all the comforts of home that he has grown to love dearly has been destroyed in an explosion. It is explained to Jack that the cause of the explosion is unknown, however it is suspected that the cause was a gas leak, and that there is nothing left of his personal possessions.
Jack is forbidden to enter the condo unit, and is advised to find a place to stay. On his way out of the lobby of the building, Jack is approached by the doorman, whose words profoundly echo the current problems facing modern society with respect to our obsession with materialism (page 45/46): A lot of young people try to impress the world and buy too many things, the doorman said A lot of young people dont know what they really want. If you dont know what you really wantyou end up with a lot you dont.
Tyler Durden later reveals to Jack that this is a problem of which he is especially concerned, a problem which he believes each person in society should become enlightened to, and work on correcting through the abandonment of material possessions. When Jack discovers he has lost his home and all his possessions he suddenly feels a sense that he is truly alone. He does not consider calling family, or staying in a hotel, but instead debates calling Marla Singer whom he barely knows, and then decides impulsively to call Tyler Durden.
It is implied through this decision, that Jack is not close with any family that he may have and that he does not have any (or few) friends. Jack and Tyler agree to meet at a local bar to have a few drinks and discuss what has happened. Jack expresses his grief over the loss of his condo and all his belongings to which Tyler replies that it is a good thing that all of that baggage is gone, and that Jack is better off without all of his stuff. He explains (page 44): You buy furniture. You tell yourself this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life.
Buy the sofa, then for a couple of years youre satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least youve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you are trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you. Tyler is stating here that people in modern society have become so consumed with what they own and what they dont own (but wish they did), that they have lost track of what is really important in life.
People have become obsessed with consumerism, forgetting that objects do not bring ultimate happiness, and you cannot take them with you when you die. Tyler is offering Jack the wisdom that it is actually a blessing that he is now free of all the distractions he has accumulated, so that he can now turn the focus onto himself, and what is really important in his life. At the end of the evening Jack and Tyler find themselves outside the bar and they discuss that Jack should stay with Tyler.
Tyler suggests to Jack that asking to stay with him must have been his real motive for calling him. Once it is agreed upon that Jack will stay or live with Tyler, Tyler asks Jack for one favour. He asks Jack to hit him as hard as he can. Jack is shocked by Tylers request and asks why he would ever ask such a thing. Tyler explains to Jack that he has never been in a fight before, and listed his reasons (page 52) as: not wanting to die without any scarsbeing tired of watching only professionals fight, and wanting to know more about himself.
Jack finally agrees to his request and they proceed to get into a physical brawl with each other, no holds barred. Eventually the bar closes; patrons come out and gather around to watch the fight. This is how Fight Club was born. Somehow Tyler and Jack had managed to leave an impression upon their fellow grey-collar brothers who had been watching them carry on, and came up with the idea that the sort of fighting that they had engaged in as an act of self-discovery, could be beneficial to others for the same reason.
It was decided that Fight Club would be formed and meet periodically in the parking lot of the same bar where they had engaged in their first fight. Following this first fight Tyler and Jack fall exhausted and discuss what just occurred. Jack asks Tyler what it was that he had really been fighting during the brawl, to which Tyler replies my father. This is a very important underlying theme within Fight Club, the theme of Generation X males in modern society being raised more commonly in a single-parent family, often with their mother as their only role model.
There is a sense of anger towards the father figure for abandoning the family, and even greater implications that men raised predominately by women have been forced to stifle their natural aggressive tendencies and take on a more unnatural, passive nature. This is supported by the need for characters in the novel/motion picture to engage in physical aggression through Fight Club as a release for these pent up feelings. Jack explains his own relationship with his father as follows (page 50/51): Me, I knew my dad for about six years, but I dont remember anything.
My dad, he starts a new family in a new town about every six years. This isnt so much like a new family as its like he sets up a franchiseWhat you see at Fight Club is a generation of men raised by womenMy father never went to college so it was really important I go to college. After college, I called him long distance and said, now what? My dad didnt know. When I got a job and turned twenty- five, long distance, I said, now what? My dad didnt know so he said, get married. Im a thirty-year-old boy, and Im wondering if another woman is really the answer I need.