Compare and Constrast Essay on Fight Club

This essay has a total of 6723 words and 26 pages.

Fight Club

"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 can't sleep. What happens then is there's 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. It's only
after you've lost everything that you're 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 you…People listened instead of
just waiting for their turn to speak.


And when they spoke, they weren't 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. Jack's 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 ‘death's door'.


During Jack's 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 Jack's ‘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 Jack's 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. Tyler's 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 he'd created himself…One 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 Tyler's 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 Jack's 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 don't know what they really want."… "If you don't know
what you really want…you end up with a lot you don't."


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 you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong,
at least you've 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 don't 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 Tyler's 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 scars…being 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 don't remember anything. My dad, he starts a
new family in a new town about every six years. This isn't so much like a new family as
it's like he sets up a franchise…What you see at Fight Club is a generation of men
raised by women…My 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 didn't know.
When I got a job and turned twenty- five, long distance, I said, now what? My dad didn't
know so he said, get married. I'm a thirty-year-old boy, and I'm wondering if another
woman is really the answer I need.


It is especially important to note that Jack is analyzing himself in the above excerpt,
acknowledging his lack of maturity, and that he would be most likely to look for a woman
who would act as a mother-figure instead of a partner or mate. Jack is implying here that
many men in his situation (raised in a single-parent family by their mother) instinctively
look for someone to take care of them in a relationship, as they know only what their
mother or female role-model has taught them, and are lacking the knowledge of what it
means to ‘be a man' in a relationship, due to a lack of a male parental figure or role
model. There is also an underlying idea in Fight Club that a male role model symbolizes
God in a young man's formative years, and when abandoned by the male role model, the young
man will develop a sense of being abandoned by God as well. This is described in Chapter
18 of the novel (page 140/141):


… "If you're male and you're Christian and living in America, your father is your model
for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or is never
at home, what do you believe about God?…What you end up doing …is you spend your life
searching for a father and God. What you have to consider…is the possibility that God
doesn't like you. Could be, God hates us. This is not the worst thing that can
happen."…We are God's middle children, according to Tyler Durden, with no special place
in history and no special attention. Unless we get God's attention, we have no hope of
damnation or redemption.


It is an interesting theory that possibly the ‘Generation X' male's lack of connection
with God and religion could be due to a lack of the male parental figure in their lives.
It is observable that these individuals may be feeling that they are the ‘unwanted
children', cast aside and neglected by all father figures in their lives, and this had
lead them to a sense of hostility which manifests through the aggressive fighting they
partake in at Fight Club meetings.


Tyler Durden, self-proclaimed inventor of Fight Club soon decides to set a rule structure
for their meetings so that they do not ‘get out of hand'. He sets the rules as follows
(page 48/49):


The first rule about Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club…The second rule about
Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club…That's the third rule in fight club, when
someone says stop, or goes limp, even if he's just faking it, the fight is over…Only two
guys to a fight. One fight at a time. They fight without shirts or shoes. The fights go on
as long as they have to. Those are the other rules of Fight Club.


It is interesting to note that the character of Tyler Durden is completely opposed to
societal rules and regulations. Regardless of this, he sees a need for rules in his club,
in order to prevent chaos from occurring, and people from getting injured beyond repair or
killed. The Fight Club has been officially established now as a therapy session for
grey-collar workers, which Tyler Durden believes cleanses it of negative, meaningless
violent intentions. This Fight Club, now established as a ‘group therapy session', soon
replaces Jack's need to attend the other group sessions at the church. Fight Club has
provided its members with a place to ‘fight their fears', fears that they have been
cheated and abandoned by their father and God, fears that they are not ‘good enough',
‘strong enough' or ‘smart enough', fears that they will never be able to understand
why they feel so trapped in their lives and unsatisfied, and also the fear of being alone,
of pain, of brutality, of defeat, of losing control, and of inevitable death. It has
become an outlet for anger and fear, a rite of masculinity, and frees them temporarily
from their enslavement by modern society. The more members realize all these things, the
more they break the first and second rule of Fight Club, sharing the experience with more
and more fellow ‘brothers' who feel just as they do. Fight Club soon moves to the
basement of the bar, and eventually new, independent chapters surface across the city as
more and more men become aware of what Fight Club can offer them.


While Fight Club is developing and growing, Jack discovers that Tyler has entered into a
sexual relationship with Marla whom he met at the support group meetings in the church.
Jack discovers that Tyler has ‘rescued' Marla from an attempted suicide through the
overdose of prescription medication (Marla had phoned the house that Jack and Tyler were
currently sharing and Tyler had gone to her place to ‘save her from herself'). Jack
becomes enraged when he discovers that Tyler and Marla are involved in a relationship. It
is during this time that Jack has found some old magazines in the house, which use clever
words to personify body parts such as ‘I am Jill's colon'. Jack takes to describing his
anger at Marla and Tyler's relationship through the use of these clever analogies (page
59):

Continues for 13 more pages >>




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