What is the significance of the fact that the Narrator/Jack's real name is never revealed?
By never giving Jack a proper name he becomes an Everyman. Jack could be anyone. Most importantly he could be the viewer. Norton's narration frequently addresses the viewer as if he is directly conversing with us. This allows the viewer access to Jack's thoughts but also allows us sympathize and identify with him, drawing us into his life more deeply.
What are the men in fight club looking for? Why are they unable to find it in their day to day lives?
The men are searching for meaning in their lives. Their jobs do not satisfy them, nor do they test them enough to make them feel that they are growing as individuals. Their existences become stagnant, and they feel irrelevant. As consumers their only true worth is how much they can spend in the never-ending pursuit of products. Fighting allows them to feel alive and to connect with a sense of masculinity that they do not find in the modern world.
Why is Jack/the Narrator repulsed by Marla Singer when he first meets her? What is it about her that truly makes him uncomfortable?
Jack distances himself from Marla Singer initially because she reminds him too much of himself. He is attending the support groups, pretending to be afflicted with terrible diseases and conditions. Marla does the same, mirroring his lie. Both she and Jack looking for the same thing:true human connection with another person. Unlike Jack, Marla does not hide behind fake names. Nor is she apologetic about attending a support group for men. In a sense, she really has hit her "rock bottom." This makes Jack uncomfortable because his lie is not only reflected back at him but it is also magnified. Her desperate emotional state reflects how he really feels. Unlike her, he is afraid of his true feelings.
What is the relevance of Jack/the Narrator's and Tyler's fatherless childhoods?
Both men bond in one scene over the fact that their respective fathers did not have a large role in their lives. Raised largely by their mothers, they feel they did not have a strong masculine figure in their lives to teach them about being men. Later in the film Tyler introduces the idea that their fathers never wanted them in the first place. They both feel rejected and resented by their fathers. As such they, and the generation of men they represent, have been spending their adult years trying to reclaim their masculinity while also looking for guidance. Tyler becomes a father figure to all the men in fight club by taking these men under his wing and giving them a sense of purpose, as well as the feeling of belonging they've been seeking. Interestingly, Tyler does this largely by acting out, as a child would seeking attention. He urinates in food and splices pornography into mainstream films. His actions are humorous but juvenile. Tyler's insistence that God's anger is better than His indifference suggests that he and the other men are challenging the status quo in defiance of the paternal figures they never had. Fight club then becomes a forum for these men to reclaim their masculinity, albeit violently and without guidance, in the hopes of discovering who they are in the absence and defiance of a father figure.
Examine the notion of violence in the film. Does the film glorify it?
Some critics have seen the film as a brutal and violent endorsement of a macho mentality, even seeing it misogynistic in some cases. Regardless of one's interpretation, the violence in the film is graphic. Several of the space monkeys (Angel Face and the Bartender in particular) suffer serious physical trauma as a result of fighting. Characters do not simply walk away from fights without injury. Other critics and scholars, Fincher included, see the violence as a means for the men to experience something that allows them to feel alive. Most importantly, this experience is not tied to material consumption. When Tyler's philosophy begins to become darker and more centrally aligned around him, Jack rejects Tyler's ideas. The violence then becomes tied to Tyler's revolution at which point the film takes an ambiguous position, leaving the audience to decide if they accept Tyler's vision for a new world.
Did Tyler offer any solutions to society's problems? What are some of the hypocrisies in his beliefs?
Tyler's philosophy requires his followers to not ask any questions and to take his instructions blindly. Tyler tells Jack that they are setting people free but he is only substituting his own power structure over an old one. Tyler's plans for bringing about a new world order are also vague. He plans the mass demolition of credit card company buildings to reset the debt record. He also describes to Jack a world that returns to a sort of pre-agrarian/hunter-gatherer way of life. How this will be achieved is not described. Such a massive shift could result in the loss of human life and could lead to mass uprisings and violence.
What is the significance of soap in the film?
Tyler explains to Jack that the first soap was made "from the ashes of heroes." Sacrifice is what allowed civilization to progress. Consider that Tyler also uses many of the same ingredients that he uses to make soap to also make dynamite and explosives. Soap is an obvious cleansing metaphor, but Tyler's true intention is to cleanse civilization itself, largely by obliterating it. His long-term plan to return to a more primitive way of life requires the removal of existing systems of governance and control. Sacrifice will still be required to achieve this, and that is what the space monkeys Tyler has surrounded himself with are for.
Consider the casting of Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden. Tyler's philosophy criticizes advertising, material consumer culture, and the effects of an entire generation of men raised to believe they would be "rock stars and movie gods." Is Pitt's casting ironic? Do you think the filmmakers were aware of this seeming disconnect?
Tyler is meant to represent a male ideal as projected by Jack. In that sense, the casting of any known actor as Tyler Durden could be seen as potentially ironic. Given Fincher and Pitt's history of working together, it seems equally likely that they are aware of the potential comic aspects of casting Pitt as an impossible (and ultimately entirely delusional) masculine ideal. Tyler's philosophy is just as realistic as he is. Likewise, to pursue a celebrity-endorsed lifestyle that might be presented in magazine won't make one themselves a celebrity. Tyler is Jack's idea of a perfect man just as Brad Pitt might be someone's idea of a perfect man. The irony lies in the fact that neither our ideas of what Tyler is or our ideas of who Brad Pitt is are actually based in reality.
The members of Project Mayhem give up their names and identities when they become members and all wear identical clothing. This closely resembles military recruitment. Have these men found the freedom that Tyler has spoken of or are they simply substituting one form of servitude for another?
The members of Project Mayhem believe that Tyler has liberated them from the mundane existence of their lives, but Tyler has not granted them true freedom. These men do not think or act for themselves. Tyler instead becomes their new Boss, only worse. Tyler is simply not to be questioned. His word is law. Tyler does offer these men a sense of purpose, serving him and his agenda, which they were lacking in their lives. The men mistake this purpose for liberation when, in fact, all choice has been removed from their lives.
Examine the character of Bob (Robert Paulson). What does he signify? What does his death signal for Jack?
Bob ultimately symbolizes innocence. He is non-judgmental and kind towards Jack, sharing his life story with him openly upon meeting him. He accepts Jack readily without hesitation. As they become friends and Bob joins fight club, he comes to worship Jack, who he knows only as Tyler Durden. In the film, as in the novel, Bob is a sacrificial lamb. His purpose in the story is to die so that Jack can be motivated to act against Tyler and his increasingly extreme methodology. When Bob is shot on an assignment, Jack feels responsible. This man who befriended him is dead because he was following an ideology created by Jack.