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“Fight Club” by Chuck Palahnuik follows the crazy, madcap life of a man who attempts to escape the system that is life by creating mayhem in the world. The main character, the narrator, throughout the book, remains nameless. He is “Mr Ordinary Joe”, he goes to work, he does his job, he comes home, and he spends his money. His job as an auto-recall supervisor is eventless and is one of the main reasons he does not like his life. He has no real friends, and all the time he has free he spends attempting to upgrade the appearance of his home, and the appearance of his life. He becomes disillusioned by life, and is constantly thinking of ways he could die accidentally, or ways he could manage to escape his pain. He eventually drives himself to insomnia, and finds no medical help or support. His doctor suggests that if he wants to see real pain, that he should go round to the local church one night to see support groups for survivors of Testicular Cancer, and other people who have survived terrible ordeals. He decides that he should go round and see, because he has nothing else to do due to his lack of social life. The narrator finds that by going to these support groups, he can let all of his pent up emotion go, and in due course, be able to sleep. In my opinion, this part of the story is one of the turning points for the narrator’s life, due to the fact that the narrator has never felt so low in his life and is now going to support groups to try and boost his ego.

All goes well until a woman by the name of Marla Singer comes to the support groups. Marla only comes along to the groups to make fun of the people who are there, and to make sure that her life is not as worthless as theirs. The narrator finds that around Marla he cannot let his feelings go, and cannot cry. He returns to having insomnia. He decides to split his support groups with Marla, because he needs these groups to be able to sleep at night. This suggests that he felt insecure about his life, and needed someone else worse off than him to be around to make him feel better. Also, the fact that he could not cry when he was around Marla suggests that right from the first time he met her, the narrator had some sort of feelings for her.

Not long after meeting Marla, our Narrator meets another person critical to the story, Tyler Durden. The narrator awakens on a plane that is bound for a destination in the US where he must perform a survey for his job as an auto-recall supervisor, to find Tyler sitting beside him. They strike up a chat, the narrator explaining about his theory of ‘single serving friends’ (people whom he will sit next to on a plane and only ever talk to once, and then will never talk to again) and after a few minutes Tyler excuses himself and leaves. Suffering from more insomnia, the narrator once again finds himself awake, and at the airport of his home city. Approaching the desk, he discovers that his baggage has been lost, all his possessions gone. He goes on to prove how obsessed he was with his possessions by being able to name every item he had in the bag, and managing to give reasons as to why he treasured the item so much.

Things worsen when he returns to his apartment to find that something, or someone, has blown his apartment to smithereens. He finds that everything he ever owned is now lying in the parking lot, and his entire apartment is nothing but a smouldering crater. Something inside him tells him to use his last quarter to phone Tyler Durden. They agree to meet up, and eventually Tyler lets the narrator come and stay with him. I liked this part of the book because this was the starting point for the downfall of the narrator’s life, and to be honest the real start of the story.

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The narrator’s life quickly begins to spiral out of control as he and Tyler become best friends, and start setting up ‘Fight Clubs’ where men like the narrator can gather and savour the life-enhancing rush that physical confrontation brings. The narrator finds that these ‘Fight Clubs’ allow him to release his emotions, and relieve him of his insomnia. Soon, the narrator begins to realise that Tyler is everything he wants to be, and he becomes jealous. The narrator comes to realise that Tyler is not like normal people; not only can Tyler do anything he wants, but he can also have whomever he wants. In this case, Tyler wants and has Marla. Tyler demands respect, and at Fight Club he gets it. He has jobs he hates, and can mastermind schemes to blackmail his bosses into paying him for doing nothing. Tyler is free and able, unlike the narrator who is stuck in his job and to the life he has created for himself. To the narrator, Tyler is how he wants to be. If the narrator knew about the fact that he is Tyler, then this would be a good example of the narrator’s self-loathing, and hatred of the fact that he cannot become what he wishes to be a more confident, self-dependent person.

The narrator slowly begins to hate Tyler. Tyler starts to push the ‘Fight Clubs’ further, faster, and to greater heights. Fight Club becomes something more than just people confronting their emotions; Tyler starts to turn the Fight Club goers into his personal Anarchist army. Tyler trains his army to spread terror and fear, recruiting people through Fight Club and allowing them more freedom to express their pent up emotions. The narrator begins to try and discover who Tyler Durden really is, he searches all over the places where Tyler had ever been, and discovers something deeply strange and disturbing

He is Tyler Durden.

The narrator’s world once again falls into disarray as he realises that Tyler was merely using his body as he slept, and that Tyler was nothing but his projection that was made up of all the things he hated about the world, everything he wanted to be, and everything he wishes he could have been. The stark realisation prompts Tyler to disappear, and for the narrator to once again take control. He attempts to clean up the mess that Tyler had created, but to no avail. Tyler reappears and attempts to kill the narrator. The narrator eventually ends up shooting himself. In the end, this is what the narrator had wanted all along.

The narrator managed to create a persona that he projected, and only he could see. All his anger, all his hatred, all his longing, all combined into one single feeling that caused him to manifest his hidden emotions into a second personality. The narrator would be the sensible, non-risk taking, and generally normal person, who would go about his daily routine and would come home at night. Tyler on the other hand, was the opposite, he wanted to break the rules, he wanted to take risks, and he was a totally extravagant person. Tyler was not shy, he was not scared, and he was never afraid to fight for what he believed in. To quote the book, “If you’re wondering who I am, I am you. But also, I am Tyler Durden; I am everything you wanted to be. You’ve failed at life, and I’m here to take over.” This was Tyler’s view on the narrator, and something else the narrator managed to manifest in Tyler His self-hatred. Tyler provided an escape for the narrator, a safe haven if you will, and a place where he could do what he wanted without the fear of the repercussions, ”Whilst you’ve slept, I used your body to do the things you couldn’t. I stood up for what you really wanted, and everything is going to be ok. We’re going to live forever, thanks to me…”

Unlike the narrator, Tyler has an ego. He also believes in himself, and has confidence in his own ability.

But as Tyler is the opposite of the narrator, he is therefore much more violent and prone to mood swings. This is proven near the end of the book after the narrator realises that Tyler is him, and Tyler attempts to kill him after finding out. “Don’t move, or I’ll make sure that neither of us makes it through to the end of this.” I froze, Tyler with the gun pressed up to my head, “You could make a mess of all this, but I won’t let you. This is MY plan, and MINE only. You’ve made enough mistakes, and I don’t need you anymore” I sincerely hoped that Tyler wasn’t going to shoot me, I really hoped to god he wouldn’t, “So, this is it…”

Up until the end, the narrator does not wish to let any of the things that Tyler was embrace him and enrich him. This was because the narrator was afraid of change, and the fact that Tyler scared him. Tyler was not him, and the narrator did not ever want to be Tyler after the things Tyler had done with Fight Club.

To conclude, most of the things Tyler was were not something the narrator wished to be, but the fact that he manifested this second personality suggested that he desired to have at least some of Tyler’s traits within him. In the end, the narrator managed to confront his fears and conquer them. Tyler was vanquished, and the narrator once again had his life back, but with more confidence and a bit more meaning to his life.

The theme of the book, as I see it, is about how people cling to image and conformity. The narrator longed for an image for which he could relate to, and for something to which he could relate to other people with. The narrator believed that he had no friends because his life was not up to what other people expected, and that the only way to gain friends was to become ‘cool’ as he saw it. Unfortunately, the narrator had problems expressing his feelings and therefore created Tyler as an output for his pent up emotions.

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