Fight Club: a Search for Identity

March 27, 2019 by Essay Writer

Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is an anarchic, pessimistic novel that portrays the need for identity in life and Palahniuk explains, through the narrator’s personality disorder, that the desire for meaning is the sole internal motivation of civilization. In the narrator’s speech throughout the novel, Palahniuk describes how a death without identity is the worst possible death. First in Fight Club, and later in Project Mayhem, the character of Tyler Durden shows how the ultimate motivation will come from a person’s necessity to own a place in history. The author explains that the path to finding one’s meaning is not easy, and can in fact develop into a desperate, indecisive struggle, as it does in the narrator’s case. Fight Club shares a modern perspective on the meaning of life, and portrays how desire can influence the lives of men and women throughout the world. Palahniuk provides his first perspective on the desire for meaning in life through the narrator’s action. The narrator is living a life with no meaning, and he realizes that a death without identity would be a waste of his time on earth. His insomnia makes this even worse. In the beginning of the book he feels like a space monkey, and states, “You do the little job you’re trained to do. Pull a lever. Push a button. You don’t understand any of it, and then you just die” (pg. 12). This comment introduces the reader to the intense need for meaning in society. Most people find meaning in materialistic goods, but the narrator, after losing all he owns in the explosion in his condominium, perceives that the real meaning of his life will be in what he accomplishes. The narrator’s search for meaning ultimately results in the formation of Tyler Durden, his alter ego. Tyler is everything the narrator would ever want to be. He is the prime example of what the narrator wants in life. As the novel progresses, the narrator becomes more and more like Tyler. He develops into the person he wants to become, and this derives from the motivation in his search for meaning. This evolution depends on fight club, which he created to provide an outlet from society. In fight club the narrator is free. He states, “After fight club you’re so relaxed you just cannot care” (pg. 139). This relaxation allows the narrator to focus on his life, and to influence the lives of other men. Without this ability, the narrator would be just another space monkey. The author explains how lack of identity provides motivation, and this is exemplified in Tyler and the narrator. In fight club and Project Mayhem Tyler Durden shows how the ultimate motivation will come from a person’s necessity to own a place in history. Tyler creates fight club based on this principle. Fight club provides an outlet for everyone tired of their job. Fight club is an outlet for any person having problems in their life. When their problems are placed aside, the men at fight club will have more time to focus on making their mark on the world. When they are ready to do this, Tyler creates Project Mayhem. Tyler stirs motivation from the men by making them wait outside the house on Paper Street for three days. The narrator states, “Tyler didn’t care if other people got hurt or not. The goal was to teach each man in the project that he had the power to control history” (pg.122). Tyler motivates the men by focusing on their desire to control their own history. He uses this motivation to turn them into his own form of space monkeys, and these men turn into Tyler’s force to make his mark on the world. Tyler tells the men, “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile” (pg. 134). By utilizing the power of the men’s motivation for individuality in Project Mayhem, Tyler allows each individual to make their identity known. The men of Project Mayhem are not even recognized by a name. The narrator states, “Only in death will we have our own names since only in death are we no longer part of the effort. In death we become heroes (pg. 178).” This motivates the men to perform to their fullest in the efforts of Project Mayhem. In death they will be honored as heroes, and their lifelong goal for an identity will be complete. Tyler states, when threatening the commissioner who wants to shut down fight club:“The people you’re trying to step on, we’re everyone you depend on. We’re the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you’re asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life” (pg. 166).The most important men in society find their motivation in Tyler’s projects, and these men continue working for Tyler, knowing that they can complete their quest for identity. Through Tyler’s work with these men in Project Mayhem, men who work the jobs necessary for the survival of the world, Palahniuk does an outstanding job of portraying how the desire for meaning provides the self-motivation in world civilization. The path to finding meaning in life is not an easy one, and the author displays this in the struggles, faults, and the eventual personal transformation of the narrator. His insomnia makes his path an even harder one to follow. The narrator states, “This is how it is with insomnia. Everything is so far away, a copy of a copy of a copy. The insomnia distance of everything, you can’t touch anything and nothing can touch you” (pg. 21). His insomnia makes him incapable to tell dreams from reality, and this makes the character of Tyler highly influential in his life. As the novel progresses, the narrator relies more on what Tyler would do. He has struggled to get to this point, and morally wonders if he is doing the right thing. This is made clear in the end of the novel. The narrator states, “The world is going crazy. My boss is dead. My home is gone. My job is gone. And I’m responsible for it all” (pg. 193). The narrator continues his development into Tyler, and in an argument with Marla, they say:“‘Why should I believe any of this?’It happens that fast.I say, because I think I like you.Marla says, ‘Not love?’This is a cheesy enough moment, I say. Don’t push it.” (pg. 197)At this moment, the narrator has regained emotion. He is no longer controlled by Tyler. The narrator notices that he can be an individual and still make a difference. This is how he ends up on top of the Parker Morris building. His development into individuality was completely emotional, and he realizes how many lives he has destroyed. Towards the end of the book he states, “This is like a total epiphany moment for me. I’m not killing myself, I yell. I’m killing Tyler. I am Joe’s Hard Drive. I remember everything” (pg. 204). He kills himself to get rid of the demons in his life that Tyler had created. The author proves that a search for individuality will not always end in happiness, but it will end up in something better. In the last chapter the narrator states:“This was better than real life. And your one perfect moment won’t last forever. Everything in heaven is white on white. Faker. Everything in heaven is quiet, rubber soled shoes. I can sleep in heaven.” (pg. 206).The narrator ends the novel as a better person, mainly because of his experience with Tyler. Through the narrator’s motivational search for individuality, Palahniuk brings significance to the importance of learning from life, no matter how significant or insignificant a person is in the world. When the narrator rids himself of Tyler, the author proves that desire can have an extreme influence on a man’s life. The influence of Tyler is gone, but through Tyler’s desire to own a place in history, the narrator has learned about himself. In the end of the novel, his views have changed. He says:I look at God behind his desk, taking notes on a pad, but God’s got this all wrong. We are not special. We are not crap or trash, either. We just are. We just are, and what happens just happens. And God says, ‘No, that’s not right.’Yeah. Well. Whatever. You can’t teach God anything.God asks me what I remember.I remember everything.The bullet out of Tyler’s gun, it tore out my other cheek to give me a jagged smile from ear to ear. Yeah, just like an angry Halloween pumpkin. Japanese demon. Dragon of Avarice.Marla’s still on Earth, and she writes to me. Someday, she says, they’ll bring me back.And if there were a telephone in Heaven, I would call Marla from Heaven and the moment she says, ‘hello,’ I wouldn’t hang up. I’d say, ‘Hi. What’s happening? Tell me every little thing’” (pg. 207).Tyler Durden has essentially disappeared, and the narrator is a new man. In the end, the narrator proves that he never was the same person as Tyler Durden. Despite the influences of fight club, Project Mayhem, Marla, and society in general, the narrator is not Tyler Durden. He is something better.

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