Fight Club

From LitWiki
Fight CLub
AuthorChuck Palahniuk
CountryUnited States
Media typePrint (Hardcover)

A 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk, and a 1999 film by David Fincher.

Chapter Summaries and Commentary


The Narrator

The protagonist of the story who suffers from insomnia and has a split personality. Because of his insomnia, he starts attending support groups to see what real suffering is like. After a while of attending them, he meets Tyler Durden and forms Fight Club. This begins to be his new support group. We never find out his name in the story. We only know his other personality, Tyler.

Tyler Durden

He is the devious side of the narrator's personality. Tyler works night jobs were he is always causing trouble, whether in inserting various clips into the middle of family movies or in his waiting tables and tampering with the food. He is the one who technically made the way for the Fight Club when he said to the narrator "hit me as hard as you can." The narrator wanted to be more like Tyler even though the are the same person. After Fight Club's growth, Tyler started Project Mayhem. Tyler is later seen as the antagonist of the novel.

Robert "Bob" Paulson

The narrator meets Bob at his support group meeting for testicular cancer. Bob had testicular cancer and had to have his testicles removed. He had to have testosterone injectings resulting in his growing "man boobs" by his body's increasing estrogen. The narrator and Bob become friends through the support groups and later meet up when Bob joins Project Mayhem. Later in the story, Bob is shot and killed while attempting a Project Mayhem assignment, which will turn the narrator against Tyler.

Marla Singer

The narrator meets her at the support groups he was attending. He begins to hate her for being a tourist. He could not let himself go when there was another faker there. She ends up being Tyler (and the narrator's) lover.

By analyzing the character of Marla Singer, it is important to look at her part in this novel through the eyes of a feminist critic. She is the only female character and can be seen as a very different character when compared with all of the other male ones throughout the book. She is portrayed and treated differently as a female and as an outsider of the group of men who make up fight club. With this role, she is given a submissive and somewhat blind perspective by the other characters. She is the one who is most intimately involved with the nararrator and with Tyler but seems to be the one that they both treat with the least amount of respect.

The entire Fight Club is based upon a patriarchal society. All of the men involved are men who were raised by women. None of them had a father figure to look up to and all of them lack the father that they needed when the time came to ask what they should do next. This may attribute to their over masculinity when fight club was in session. The testicular cancer group was a major sign of the lacking of masculinity prevalent in this book. Big Bob was once a very manly and muscular body builder that prided himself on the ability to be strong. He got testicular cancer, lost his manhood, and grew breasts. This shows the negative aspect attributed to being female. Though it is understandable that Big Bob doesn't want to be feminine, especially not physically, there is still a negative aspect surrounding the female gender altogether.

Marla is shunned and treated with little or no respect throughout the novel up until the end. The nararrator and herself have a competition in the beginning as to who is allowed what groups. Once Fight Club starts, the nararrator feels pride in the fact that Fight Club really does exclude her due to her gender. From then on she is kept in the dark about what is going on and is not allowed to know anything about this group that allows only men. She is only called on by Tyler for the majority of the book so that he can get laid and the nararrator views her as an annoyance that invades his home. The female character in this novel is shunned, avoided, and is seen as irritating.

Towards the end of the novel, near the nararrator's breaking point, he begins to appreciate Marla. He is beginning to realize that Tyler isn't a real person at all and that he is just an alternate personality that comes into play when he falls asleep. Upon this realization he calls upon Marla and feels the need to be with her in order to stay awake. He fears that the members of Fight Club are now out to kill her and suddenly gains the urge to be her protector. His new meaning for staying alive is now not all about himself but about Marla and keeping her safe. His annoyance becomes his reason for living. In the end, the female critic would say that the gender prejudice had disappeared and that Marla was eventually given the respect that she deserved.

Major Themes

The Feminization of Men

Redefining or Rediscovering Masculinity

The Numbing Effects of Modern Life

The Oedipus Complex

Based from a greek legend Read about it king of Thebes, the son of Laius and Jocasta, and the father by Jocasta of Eteocles, Polynices, Antigone, and Ismeme: as was prophesied at his birth, he unwittingly killed his father and married his mother and, in penance, blinded himself and went into exile.

The unresolved desire of a child for sexual gratification through the parent of the opposite sex, esp. the desire of a son for his mother. This involves, first, identification with and, later, hatred for the parent of the same sex, who is considered by the child as a rival.

1. A child's positive libidinal feelings toward the parent of the opposite sex and hostile or jealous feelings toward the parent of the same sex that develop usually between the ages of three and six and that may be a source of adult personality disorder when unresolved used especially of the male child. 2. The unresolved oedipal feelings persisting into adult life.

“The child’s sexual researches, on which limits are imposed by his physical development, lead to no satisfactory conclusion; hence such later complaints as ‘I can’t accomplish anything’.”(Freud 15) “The tie of affection, which binds the child as a rule to the parent of the opposite sex, succumbs to disappointment, to a vain expectation of satisfaction or to jealousy over the birth of a new baby-unmistakable proof or the infidelity of the object of the child’s affections.”(Freud 15) “His own attempt to make a bay himself, carried out with tragic seriousness, fails shamefully.”(Freud 15) “The lessening amount of affection he receives, the increasing demands of education, hard words and an occasional punishment-these show him at last the full extent to which he has been scorned.”(Freud 15) “These are a few typical and constantly recurring instances of the ways in which the love characteristic of the age of childhood is brought to a conclusion.”(Freud 15)

The Oedipus Myth: The Mother

Aristotle once had an idea that thinking and knowledge are the driving forces in human life, and through the well-known myth of Oedipus, a tyrant of Thebes, he tries to reveal these forces are also found at the myth's semantic base. The first and oldest component of the myth is the story of the Sphinx, initially presented as one of the "storm demons," symbolizing disaster and plague, and naming her a "sacred disease" (Rudnytsky 96). The combination of the two myths of the Sphinx and Oedipus was at first understood as a symbolic representation of the purely physical conflicts between the sun and storm clouds. Consequently, changes in social conditions catalyzed a change in the interpretation, so eventually the story developed and became enriched into a myth tracing the daily or yearly career of the sun, which was believed to kill his father (the night) and marry his mother (the dawn) (Rudnytsky 98).

In respects to religion, the Sphinx can be interpreted as Mother Earth - its gradual metamorphosis from an environment of hostile natural forces and diseases into one of earth, life and Mother Nature. Freud pointed out that figures of this kind are the religious equivalent of the "phallic mother" symbolized in cults by objects such as a totem. In her many guises the goddess represents all the aspects which a mother shows to her child. She is an intercessor with the father-god, embodiment of beauty as well as the origin of all things (Rudnytsky 107).

For further reading, see the Oedipal Complex

Major Symbols

The Rules of Fight Club

1st RULE: You do not talk about FIGHT CLUB.

2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about FIGHT CLUB.

3rd RULE: If someone says "stop" or goes limp, taps out the fight is over.

4th RULE: Only two guys to a fight.

5th RULE: One fight at a time.

6th RULE: No shirts, no shoes.

7th RULE: Fights will go on as long as they have to.

8th RULE: If this is your first night at FIGHT CLUB, you HAVE to fight.


At one point in the novel, the narrator comes across magazine articles that are supposedly written by body organs in the first person. For example, "I am Jack's medulla oblongata. Without me, Jack could not perform any of his autonomic funtions." Throughout the rest of the story, in the film, the narrator uses this line to express his thoughts, emotions and feelings - I am Jack's raging bile duct. I am Jack's complete lack of surprise. I am Jack's wasted life. In the novel, this line is also used with the exception of the name - I am Joe's Boiling Point. I am Joe's Smirking Revenge. I am Joe's Broken Heart.

Turning Points For The Characters

The Narrator/Tyler Durden

A major turning point for the narrator comes when he stands up against his boss. Without any help from Tyler, completely aware of being himself, the narrator reacts against type when his boss shows him the rules of fight club found in the copier. The narrator, appearing calm and collected, threatens his boss in a round about way, avoiding the straightforward threat, but musing that the man who created these rules probably would "use an Eagle Apache carbing... (to) go the length of mahogany row and take out every vice-president with a cartridge left oer for each director" (Palahniuk, 98). The narrator goes on, each word startling his boss more and more. With this defiant act, the narrator settles into a meshing of his two personalities, and begins to see, even in a small part on an unconscious level, that he does not need Tyler's help quite as much as he used to.

Fight Club in Contemporary Culture


F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Fight Club the film

Additional Resources

[This section should include items of interest that have not been cited but that might be of further use for researchers.]

Works Cited

  • Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the pleasure principle. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1961.
  • Friday, Krister. "A Generation of Men Without History": Fight Club, Masculinity, and the Historical Symptom. Post Modern Culture. Vol.13, Number3. May 2003.
  • Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996.
  • Rudnytsky, Peter. Freud and Forbidden Knowledge. New York: New York University Press, 1994. 96-110.