Fight Club

Fight Club Summary and Analysis of Chapter 9 to Chapter 12


Chapter 9

The Narrator fights through the pain of the chemical burn on his hand. He begins to use guided meditation to escape from it. Tyler notices, telling him to come back to the pain. Tyler tells the Narrator that this is the greatest moment of the Narrator’s life. The Narrator imagines himself in Ireland, on a trip he took after he left college. During this trip he visited the Blarney Stone, but instead of kissing it, he urinated on it. This small act of rebellion, the Narrator thinks, might have been his first yearning for anarchy and chaos.

Tyler explains to the Narrator that in ancient history, human sacrifices were made on a hill overlooking a river. The bodies were burned in a pyre. The rain washed a thick discharge into the river. This was a lye solution. When people washed their clothes at this point in the river, they found that they became cleaner than usual. This led to the discovery of soap. Without these sacrifices, he says, we would have had no progress.

Tyler continues to stress that until the Narrator accepts his own mortality and how his sacrifice can help the greater good, he is of no use. First, he has to hit rock bottom.

The Narrator imagines himself back at the Blarney Stone site. He imagines himself urinating on the Stone, except that he is actually wetting his pants as he sits in front of Tyler. Tyler pours vinegar on the Narrator’s hand and neutralizes the lye. He tells the Narrator that he is one step closer to rock bottom.

Tyler says that it was right for those human sacrifices to have taken place because it allowed for progress. The first soap was made from the ashes of heroes. Because of their sacrifices, like the first monkeys shot into space, we have all benefited.

Chapter 10

This chapter finds both the Narrator and Tyler in an elevator working as waiters at a banquet. They are taking a buffet cart to a banquet. The Narrator stops the elevator so Tyler can urinate into a bisque. The Narrator lists a number of other occasions where he and Tyler have befouled food before serving it.

As the elevator stands locked in place, the Narrator describes the scene in the main banquet room. Here, the rich patrons (“the giants”) know the tip is included in the bill so they treat the wait staff poorly. They send back food for no reason at all, for example, just to see people run around to earn their money.

The Narrator then tells a story about a dinner party that Tyler worked in the past. During the party the hostess came into the kitchen holding a scrap of paper, her hand shaking, wanting to know if the waiters saw any of her guests go into her bedroom. They say they are only supposed to be in the kitchen, dining room, and the garage. The host appears and tells the hostess that everything will be alright. She drops the note and they return to the party. One of the other waiters asks what the note says. Without looking at it, Tyler says out loud “I have passed an amount of urine into at least one of your many elegant fragrances.” Tyler explains that he did not actually urinate in any of the bottles but that the hostess doesn’t know that.

The rest of the night Tyler makes sure to keep refilling the hostess’s glass. After the guests begin to leave, the other wait staff begin to question whether Tyler should have done that. The hostess has begun throwing all of the expensive perfume into the toilet and has cut herself accidentally on the broken bottles. She is waving a bottle around at her husband, accusing him of infidelity. Tyler reasons that this woman’s perfume collection costs more than any one of them will make in a year and that the perfume is made from whales. Most people, he says, have never even seen a whale.

Tyler finishes befouling the soup in the elevator and the two return to the party.

Chapter 11

On a Saturday night, the Narrator and Tyler are hiding out in the front seat of a 1968 Impala in a used-car lot. They are avoiding the house because Marla may be looking for them there. The Narrator explains that the Marla gave them a package containing liposuctioned fat that her mother had sent her. The fat was for a collagen lip injection. Tyler decided to use this fat to make soap, which was now selling very well to high class retail department stores. Tyler began sending Marla’s mother telegrams urging her to send Marla more fat. The Narrator says he was aware of Tyler’s plan but didn’t stop him. When Marla found out she threatened to call the police, so the two men decided it might be best to avoid the house for a while.

The Narrator laments not stepping in earlier to stop Tyler. Tyler reminds him that his life could be worse.

Chapter 12

Back at his job, the Narrator is visited by his boss while he sends out letters alerting owners of a defect in their cars. His boss holds up a piece of paper on which are typed the rules of fight club. The Narrator’s insomnia has returned and he has left the original he typed in the copy machine. Tyler has asked for him to type up the rules and make ten copies.

His boss is angry and asks the Narrator what he’s doing using office equipment for purposes unrelated to his job. He asks the Narrator what he would do in his position. The Narrator answers that he’d be very careful with that piece of paper. Whoever typed that, he tells his boss, is a dangerous and psychotic person who could go over the edge at any point and bring a semiautomatic rifle to work. The Narrator describes to his boss, in detail, how this person is probably spending his nights at home filing a cross into the tip of all of his rounds so they split upon impact, causing more damage to his victims. His boss is speechless. The Narrator recites the rules of fight club to him aloud.

In his head, the Narrator makes a list of all the defects in the cars his company manufactures; defects that cause serious injury and death to the occupants. His company has always denied any such knowledge. He snatches the paper out of his boss’s hand, giving him a paper-cut in the process. He tells his boss that the paper is not his, though it is completely apparent it is.

The Narrator goes to attend a support group meeting to find that only Big Bob is there. The Narrator asks him where everybody is. Bob answers that the group has disbanded but that he’s found a new group, only this group has rules and the first two rules are that you don’t talk about it. Bob proceeds to inform the Narrator about two separate fight clubs that meet on different nights at different locations. The Narrator has no knowledge of these other chapters. The Narrator reasons that Tyler is working most who is running these other chapters? Big Bob asks the Narrator if he knows the man who invented fight club, Tyler Durden.


Tyler's deliberate infliction of pain on the Narrator signals a shift in the extremity of his philosophy. After administering lye to the Narrator's hand, Tyler presents a history of the origin of soap. Tyler advocates that human sacrifice is a noble and good thing, that it benefits the rest of the members of a society. Without this sacrifice, there cannot be any progress. Tyler's aim in inflicting this pain on his friend is to make the inevitability of death a lucid and undeniable fact. We do not tend to go through our day-to-day lives thinking about how they will one day end. Tyler's belief is that until we are strong enough to take this step, we cannot truly appreciate life.

To escape this pain, the Narrator harkens back in his mind to a memory of visiting the Blarney Stone in Ireland after he finished college. After getting drunk at a pub he goes to the site and urinates on the famous landmark instead of kissing it. It is, he discerns, his first act of rebellion, his first taste of chaos and anarchy. Palahniuk takes this opportunity to ridicule the rite of passage that so many privileged American college graduates take to "find themselves." The Narrator is consciously aware of his status and how his American urine is "too yellow and rich with vitamins". He doesn't want to kiss the Blarney Stone, he wants to destroy it and all it represents. Hundreds will come in the days after he visited it to place their lips on the Stone and kiss it for luck, an object he used as a toilet. He isn't looking for luck in what he feels is a mere tourist destination.

Tyler's allegory about soap and human sacrifice suggests an ideology in which the loss of human life is necessary to bring about meaningful change. Tyler discusses how human sacrifice led to the advancement of soap and cleanliness, but this cleansing is not purely corporeal. Tyler uses many of the same ingredients used to make soap to make explosives. These explosives are intended for use in terrorist activities to topple the existing structure of civilization. This act is also a kind of cleansing which could exact its own toll on human life. These sacrificial victims could be his own followers as well as unsuspecting innocent bystanders. The extremism of Tyler's ideology begins to take on fascist tendencies, but it can also be seen as a cautionary tale on the possible extremism of any ideology, regardless of where it falls on the political spectrum.

Palahniuk's commentary on class distinction continues in the next chapter, where we see Tyler and the Narrator using their jobs as banquet waiters to befoul food before they serve it to their rich clientele. The homoerotic overtones in the novel also return in this scene as the Narrator watches Tyler unzip his pants and place his penis in a container of soup to urinate in it. Although Tyler asks him not to watch him, the Narrator describes how the sight of Tyler's penis in the soup is humorous, like an elephant drinking while wearing a white shirt.

The Narrator describes the patrons themselves as rich people who are amused by the sight of others doing their bidding for money. While Palahniuk's description of them certainly makes us sympathetic to Tyler and the Narrator's antics, the story of a prank Tyler pulls at a dinner party is less amusing. In this scenario, Tyler leaves a note in a wealthy socialite's bedroom, stating that he has urinated in at least one of her expensive perfume bottles. Although he has not done anything of the sort, he has convinced the woman that someone at her dinner party has done so. After ensuring that she has plenty to drink, Tyler is amused to hear that the woman has suffered a nervous breakdown and cut herself while disposing of all of her perfume. The other waitstaff feel that he might have gone too far. Tyler's defense is that if they want to tell their boss, they can go ahead. He would rather get fired and have to make decisions instead of treading water like he has in his life. Tyler demonstrates no sympathy for this woman, whose life has become arguably just as much a cage as the lives of the wait staff she has employed. While Tyler's actions may force her to question her priorities, his actions are still more destructive than they are helpful. The woman must go to the hospital to treat her cuts. To defend his actions, Tyler deflects any criticism by attacking the other waitstaff members for clinging to their jobs instead of making real decisions about their lives. Tyler employs this very technique at numerous times in the novel to convince others of his philosophy.

Tyler's emerging darker side also seems to influence the Narrator. When his boss confronts him about the paper he finds in the copy machine, the Narrator launches into a chilling story, threatening his boss's life as well as the lives of everyone else he works with. His boss is stunned, completely unsure of how to act in the face of this behavior from an employee. The Narrator completely undermines his authority with this threat, sending a message to his boss that he will no longer be subject to the terms of the power structure that comprises their relationship.

Because his insomnia has returned, the Narrator returns to the support groups. His return to this old behavior suggests that fight club hasn't satisfied all his needs. The revelation that other fight club chapters exist and have been in operation without his knowledge lead him to question how his insomnia has been affecting him. Has he been awake or asleep? Is he awake now? Here, Palahniuk is foreshadowing the largest reveal in the novel.