Chapter 5 begins with the Narrator talking to a security task force officer at the airport. The officer tells the Narrator that the suitcase he checked at Dulles Airport had to be removed from his flight because it was vibrating. The Narrator says he had everything in that suitcase: His shirts, pants, shoes and ties. Usually, the security task force officer says, the vibration is an electric razor. Sometimes, however, it is a vibrator. His suitcase was inspected by the bomb squad on an abandoned runway. The Narrator's electric razor was the culprit.
The Narrator leaves the airport in a cab, spending his last ten dollars to get home. When he arrives at his condominium building he finds that his unit has exploded, leaving a gaping hole where all his belongings used to be. He has no idea how this happened. The Narrator mourns over the loss of his designer furniture. "Something...had blasted my clever Njurunda coffee tables in the shape of a lime green yin and an orange yang that fit together to make a circle." He goes through laundry list of all the designer items that used to populate his condominium. "The people I know who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography, now they sit in the bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalogue."
The doorman tells the Narrator that the police were there, asking a lot of questions. They believe the gas might have been left on, filling the unit until the compressor on the refrigerator turned on and ignited the gas. The doorman tells the Narrator that it isn't worth going up to his floor because nothing is left. The Narrator goes to the lobby and uses the phone to call Tyler. "Oh Tyler, please deliver me from clever furniture," he intones to himself. Tyler answers the phone and agrees to meet the Narrator at a bar.
The two men drink a good deal of beer and Tyler tells the Narrator that he can move in with him. His suitcase would arrive the next day. Both drunk, Tyler asks the Narrator to do him a favor. The Narrator asks what it is and Tyler responds, "I want you to hit me as hard as you can."
In Chapter 6, the Narrator is at work seated in a conference room for a demonstration his company is making to Microsoft. The presentation is the Narrator's, but his boss is making the presentation because the Narrator has a black eye and stitches in the side of his face that are coming loose. He sits in the meeting swallowing blood. The Narrator states that tomorrow night is fight club, and that he is not going to miss fight club. Throughout the chapter, the Narrator lists the rules of fight club. They are:
1. You do not talk about fight club.
2. You do not talk about fight club.
3. When someone says stop or goes limp, the fight is over.
4. Only two guys to a fight.
5. No shirts or shoes are to be worn.
6. Fights go on as long as they have to.
7. If it is your first night at fight club, you have to fight.
Now that fight club is in his life, the Narrator says, everything else has fallen to the side. Nothing seems to upset him anymore. He no longer feels the need to go to the gym in order to look like a male model. Fight club has become the reason for him to go to the gym, trim his nails, and keep his hair short. Fight club, he explains, is not about winning or losing. The Narrator describes a feeling more akin to spiritual salvation. His narrative flashes back to his first fight with Tyler at the bar. After their fight, the Narrator asks Tyler what he was really fighting. Tyler answers that he was fighting his father. Now, fight club meets every Saturday night in the basement of a bar where Tyler lays out the rules. Most of the men in fight club, he explains, are there because they are too afraid to fight something else in their lives. After a few fights, the fear dissipates quickly.
The Narrator discusses how neither he nor Tyler had strong father figures in their lives. The Narrator's father left when he was six years old. He would speak to him on the phone roughly once a year. He refers to himself as a member of a generation of men raised by women.
The Narrator spots Walter from Microsoft looking at him during the meeting. He describes Walter as a young guy with perfect skin and teeth the the kind of job you'd write the alumni magazine about. The Narrator stares at him with blood shining on his lips and a bruise that takes up half his face.
Chapter 7 begins to detail the Narrator's new home life, living with Tyler. The Narrator explains that the house that he shares with Tyler is a large 7-bedroom, three floor home that is awaiting a zoning change or a will to come out of probate before it is torn down. It is falling apart and every time it rains the fuses in the basement have to be pulled so no one gets electrocuted. There are old stacks of magazines in the basement that were left by a previous owner. In one of the oldest of the magazines, the Narrator finds a series of articles where organs of the human body talk about themselves in the first person. "I am Jack's heart," for example. The house, on Paper Street, is completely isolated. Tyler and the Narrator are alone for a half mile in every direction.
One morning, in the house that the Narrator occupies with Tyler, the Narrator finds a used condom floating in the toilet. The Narrator mentions that he was having vivid sex dreams the night before. In these dreams he was having sex with Marla Singer. He meets Tyler in the kitchen. Tyler is covered in hickies and says that he met Marla Singer and they had sex.
The Narrator explains that the night before, he called Marla to see if he could attend a support group without her being there. Marla answers and tells the Narrator that she has taken too many Xanax pills. She sarcastically claims that it isn't a real suicide attempt, just a cry for help. She invites him to come over to watch her die. The Narrator says no and goes to the support group. Tyler came home from his banquet waiter job as Marla called to say she was close to death. In the Narrator's opinion, Marla isn't worth saving, but Tyler doesn't know her and races to her room at the Regent Hotel to save her. He also calls the police, who arrive just after he does. Tyler gets Marla out of the hotel unnoticed as Marla tells the police that the girl who lives in her room "has no faith in herself." He brings her back to the house on Paper Street. She can't fall asleep or she might not wake up. She tells Tyler he has to keep her up all night.
The Narrator is upset to hear all of this from Tyler, but doesn't tell him so. He is intensely jealous of the fact that Marla now has Tyler's attention instead of him. Marla drove him from the support groups. Now she has invaded his home and taken Tyler too.
As Chapter 8 opens, the Narrator's boss sends him home because of all the dried blood on his pants. He has been spending his time at work writing haiku poems and faxing them to everyone. Every night he now comes home to hear Tyler and Marla having sex. Still, he claims he never sees them together. Tyler is never around when Marla is.
To wash the blood-stained pants, the Narrator needs soap. Tyler shows him how to make it. He tells the Narrator to get rid of Marla, to tell Marla to go out and buy a can of lye. The Narrator compares this to being six-years-old again, passing messages between his parents. Marla is in the kitchen burning the inside of her arm with the end of a clove cigarette. He cleans her up and gives Marla ten dollars and his bus pass. She shows him a bridesmaid's dress she bought at a thrift store. He puts her shoes on her feet and she tries to bond a little with him. The Narrator is distant. "I can't win with you, can I?" she says before setting out for the store.
A few seconds after Marla leaves, Tyler appears as if out of nowhere. He says they need to render fat to make soap. He pulls a few Ziploc bags out of the freezer, each containing lumps of fat. He places these lumps in boiling water and tells the Narrator to stir the water while the fat dissolves, skimming off the top layer of tallow and setting it aside. They begin to discuss Marla. Tyler responds that at least she is trying to hit rock bottom. Tyler tells him that he has much farther to go. The Narrator does not respond but continues to stir and skim.
Marla returns from the store. Tyler has disappeared like magic. She hands over the lye, asking what it is that the Narrator is making. The Narrator asks her to leave, abruptly. She gives him a kiss on the cheek and tells him to call her. As soon as she is gone, Tyler reappears. He asks the Narrator to do him another favor: never talk to Marla about him. He makes the Narrator promise three times. The tallow in the fridge is beginning to separate into layers. The clear layer on top is glycerin.
Tyler takes the Narrator's hand in his. He licks his own lips and kisses the Narrator's hand. Tyler takes the can of lye and pries the lid off before pouring the lye onto the Narrator's hand, giving him a chemical burn in the shape of a kiss.
As the Narrator returns from his business trip he literally returns empty-handed. With his condominium completely destroyed, his suitcase now contains the only belongings he still has. He has lost all of the "clever furniture" he spent so much time amassing. While he laments the loss of these individual pieces, he is also completely aware of how little they actually give his life meaning or to make him happy. They have become a goal unto themselves, a means to demonstrate one's status and overall sense of worth .As he calls Tyler he hopes to be delivered from this perfect life which is anything but. From afar he seems like a successful young professional. He has a condominium full of designer furniture, he lives alone, is self-sufficient, and has a well-paying job to sustain this life. However, it is undeniable that he is isolated, alone, and unhappy about the life he has.
Tyler, on the other hand, seems completely free of these sort of concerns. He is not mired in a material existence. When he and the Narrator meet on the beach, Tyler assembles a piece of art for no other purpose than to create. In Tyler, the Narrator sees a freedom to life that he has never enjoyed as an adult. After finding his condominium in ruins, he calls Tyler instead of calling Marla. The fact that he seems to only have these two options for people to call indicates that there are no other people in his life.
Palahniuk introduces Tyler immediately after introducing Marla. The two characters are purposely juxtaposed to present two potential paths. Marla comes across as dark and nihilistic while Tyler seems to brim with life and possibility. Consider these characterizations as the novel progresses and how they change. Palahniuk also invokes religious language in the Narrator's plea to Tyler. Lines like "Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete" (p. 46) and "the phone rang and Tyler answered" (p.45) invoke Tyler as a messianic savior figure. Palahniuk uses religious language throughout the novel, returning to the notion of salvation when describing how the Narrator feels at fight club. Later chapters will visit notions of Tyler as a father figure and God.
After meeting Tyler in a bar we see the genesis of fight club. Tyler asks the Narrator to him as hard as he can and they have their first fight. As we catch up with the Narrator in Chapter 6 we can see the results of that fight. The Narrator's appearance is bad enough that his boss decides to deliver the presentation to Microsoft personally instead of letting the Narrator do it.
With fight club in his life, the emptiness now seems to be filled. In fact, fight club has become the most important thing in his life. He has no interest in the presentation or his job as he sits in the meeting. All he can think of is the next meeting of fight club. He is no longer concerned with his job or obsessing over his physical appearance. He does not feel the compulsion to fit in time at the gym to look more "masculine". Fight club provides him with the means to reconnect with himself. As the Narrator states, it isn't about winning or losing. The men at fight club are destroying the old ideas of who they are to strip away all the unnecessary parts that have accrued. Only through this figurative (and partially physical) self-destruction do they feel they can actually discover who they are, and what they are really capable of. Tyler explains that each of the men in fight club is afraid of something in their lives that they want to fight. Fight club helps them lose that fear.
The Narrator locks eyes with Walter, a Microsoft representative, who he describes as having soft, clear skin and perfect teeth. Walter represents everything that the Narrator used to pine after: a "complete" life. The Narrator sits in the dark, blood pooling in his mouth, and his gaze meets Walter's. Although the Narrator makes assumptions about the kind of life Walter lives, there is the implication that he is right and that he can see right through Walter. Even more important is that Walter is also aware of this. Up until now, he has always been the impressive one. The Narrator's gaze transmits two pieces of information to Walter: he is not impressed and that he almost feels sorry for Walter.
Tyler and the Narrator also discuss their fathers. This is a theme that the novel returns to several times. Both men feel abandoned and neglected by their fathers, individuals who they feel had little interest in them as children. Tyler states openly that the thing he is really fighting is his father. Because of the lack of father figures in their lives, Tyler states that he and the Narrator are members of a generation raised by women. As such, they have little sense of their identities as men. Their existence has always been in relation to women, and not themselves. Their fathers were their only models for adult males. Because their fathers failed them, Tyler advocates the destruction of their memory. Only by shedding that model can they improve upon and be better than their fathers.
Chapter 7 allows us to see the home life that the Narrator and Tyler now share. The Narrator's worlds collide when he discovers that Marla and Tyler have met and are regular sex partners. The Narrator's jealousy towards Marla suggests a homoerotic fixation on Tyler. It is debatable whether the Narrator seeks to replace Marla and take her place. Palahniuk never states openly that the Narrator seeks a physical relationship with Tyler. It is possible that these overtones are there to suggest a greater complexity to male relationships than most heterosexual men would normally acknowledge.
Marla's own issues also become apparent in this chapter. Driven by her loneliness and possibly by the loss of the Narrator's presence in her life, she turns to suicide. She calls the Narrator so that at least someone can hear her pass, to know that she ever existed. Instead, Tyler answers the phone and rushes to prevent her death. When the Narrator hears of this, he is disgusted. Although we don't learn a great deal about Marla in the novel, her actions suggest that the connection she made with the Narrator, however awkward and brief, was meaningful to her. Although she is far from stable, she did find common ground with the Narrator. They were both behaving in the same reprehensible manner, but this allowed her to feel a kind of acceptance from him. She too seems to have no one in her life to turn to. So she contacts the Narrator to let him know that she is essentially giving up. Marla reminds the Narrator too much of himself and how he behaved while in the support groups. His presence at them was a lie, and Marla only reflected that back to him. Getting away from her allowed him to distance himself from his own issues as well. With her now back in the picture, he is upset that he has to deal with them again. Worse yet, Tyler is no longer paying attention to him.
Chapter 8 finds the Narrator's tension with his boss beginning to escalate. His boss sends him home because of his appearance and the blood stains on his clothes. He is overjoyed that he can leave work early. To wash his clothes, he will need soap. He needs Tyler to show him how to make some. In order to make some, Tyler will need lye. He tells the Narrator to instruct Marla to go and buy flakes of lye. This sets up an interesting scene in which the Narrator demonstrates some warmth toward Marla.
Marla is in the kitchen burning herself with the end of a clove cigarette, quoting some of Tyler's philosophy as she does. The Narrator takes the cigarette from her and washes the burns on her arm with a rag before putting her feet in shoes and sending her off. Although the Narrator's intention is to get Marla out the door, he does so lovingly, suggesting that he does have feelings for her.
Tyler also understands the threat that his relationship with Marla poses to his relationship with the Narrator. He asks the Narrator to promise never to speak to Marla about him. Although the full reasons for this are not entirely clear at this point in the novel, this is an important scene to remember. Tyler wants Marla to know as little about him as possible and he doesn't want for her and the Narrator to get too closely acquainted.
Chapter 8 ends with Tyler applying a chemical burn to the Narrator's hand. At first this may seem like he is punishing the Narrator and asserting his dominance over him. Although this is not a misguided interpretation, Tyler's true goal is to push the Narrator further down towards rock bottom and enlightenment.