Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Catharsis and the Other: Defying Alterity in Fight Club and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The theory of “othering” or alterity states that people attempt to define themselves not by who or what they are, but by who and what they are not. Defining oneself by means of othering, however, can be problematic as, by definition, doing so seems to limit organic individuality, only deriving meaning by establishing comparisons. In both Fight Club and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, the main characters are searching for a kind of healing or catharsis, and both of them find such relief in investigating the “other” and how alterity plays a role in self-identification. However, both texts treat the “other” slightly differently: in Fight Club, alterity as a coping mechanism is rejected completely and the “other” is embraced as the self, turning the concept of the “other” into a necessary means to an end, whereas in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, the “other” is something to be avoided entirely because it disallows individuality.

Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club, hereafter referred to as simply the narrator, is in search of relief from his numbed, consumer-driven life, finally finding such reprieve when he embraces the “other” he created for himself. In Tyler Durden, the narrator personifies everything he is...

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