The Dualism of Human Nature in “Fight Club”
Societal notions tend to allude that an individual is either one thing or the other and not both; however, this contradicts our very basic human nature, as we possess and can find duality within ourselves. Human nature is imbued with conflict and duplicity, and the battle between our dual selves molds us to who we are. In the classic film Fight Club, this notion is brought to life vividly and in an allegorical manner that fully explores it. The film follows the unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) who is disgruntled with the life of consumerism and white-collar jobs and becomes entangled in a rapport with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). As the film later reveals Tyler Durden as a manifestation of the protagonist’s unhinged persona, the audience understands the entire conflict between the characters is an internal mental battle. Thus, dualism, a system of thought that polarizes our perceptions, creating opposing antitheses that views the other as an enemy and strives to conquer. In Freudian thought, the psyche is made up of id as the instinctual impulses, the superego as the moral conscience and the ego which balances both demands. The protagonist, as the ego, fails to compromise between the two. Subsequently, ends up identifying with the superego which he is familiar with and becomes unable to suppress the id (Durden) which takes form as a second entity. Thus, Fincher’s Fight Club visually demonstrates the struggles between the dual opposing forces that are fighting for control which eventually enables the narrator to find who he truly is by balancing them.
Tyler Durden as the unsuppressed instinctual and primitive psyche seeks to fulfill the protagonist stifled desires and dominate in hope for his happiness. As he asserts “All the ways you wish you could be that’s me. I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not” (Fincher). Durden insists to the narrator how he is the personification that is suitable for him as it accomplishes all his desires. As the narrator’s id he represents the aggression and sexual drives contained in the unconscious mind. The protagonist as a man who has been emasculated by aspects of society such as consumerism, unfulfilling careers, and no possibilities retains extreme impulses that have been repressed. His inability to balance them causes them to manifest in the aggressive fighting rituals, sexual escapades with Marla, and extreme violence through Durden. Durden is destructive and impulsive, as he possesses high sex-drive, the inclination to primal violence, and disregard of morals without any mindfulness of societal expectations. As the narrator has become unable to self-improve beyond his current state or find happiness, Durden aims to self-destruct and overcome the societal conceptions that have imprisoned his counterpart. Thus, attacking the superego, demonstrating the narrator’s dualism between what is desired and what is required.
Despite his initial approval of Durden’s ways, the narrator’s morally conscious persona aims to conquer Durden by subduing his inclinations to no avail. He states, “Tyler, I’m grateful to you; for everything that you’ve done for me. But this is too much. I don’t want this” (Fincher). The narrator, now only as a superego tries to subdue Durden (id) impulses by asserting his moral standards. As he led a mundane life before the manifestation of Durden, the new radical, risky and impulsive way of life brought him excitement and contentment. However, his moral conscience cannot allow him to follow Tyler’s lead into the immoral and wicked territory of his compulsions. Rather than compromise, the narrator as the superego intends to conquer over Durden’s immoral inclinations by trying to undo his sinister plans towards society. He realizes that the mundane life is not completely terrible considering a world of massacre and castrations due to diminutive reasons. However, he fails to realize that his attempts to overcome Durden as an adversary is futile as they are a single entity after all.
Finally, the narrator manages to balance both his dualism and comes to his final resolve and transformation. When the narrator, now aware of his duality, puts a gun on his head and Durden questions him he retorts “Not my head, Tyler. Our head” (Fincher). Realizing that the only way to tackle the dualism is to overpower both forces by compromising both their demands. The opposing id and superego require the ego to ensure rationality in decision-making and constructing the ideal self. As the narrator has become capable of finding the right balance between the two extreme forces. Once he finds the common ground between his prior self and Durden he finds clarity of who he is supposed to be. Even acknowledging to Marla the bizarreness of his previous actions that were dictated by his internal conflict. But now that the duality is in harmony and have a sense of balance, his true identity and motivations are clear and in agreement.
Accordingly, Fincher’s Fight Club manages to visually express the dualism of human nature through the opposing forces that seek domination and eventually balance out to create an ideal self. The narrator’s entire conflict is a confrontation between his superego and id as he has lost the capability to compromise both demands through his ego. The persona Durden as the id takes over his life and undertakes a series of instinctual impulses through extreme violence and sexual escapades. While simultaneously destroying the previous mundane and idealized sense of self. However, over time the narrator as the superego intervenes with his moral standards to try to salvage Durden’s damages by subduing his impulses. Subsequently, realizing the duality of human nature which can only be solved by compromising both demands to create the ideal identity. There is no division in our duality and the choice to act while balancing out both forces is what makes us human, as the films conveys.
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