Fight Club

Fight Club Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the significance of the fact that the Narrator's real name is never revealed?

    By never giving the Narrator a proper name, Palahniuk allows the Narrator to appear as a sort of Everyman. He could be anyone, including the reader. This also mirrors Tyler's practice in Project Mayhem, where members do not have any names.

    Consider also Palahniuk's use of the second person throughout the novel. Lines like "You don't understand any of it, and then you die (p.12)" directly involve the reader. This allows the reader to directly relate to the Narrator. The narrative becomes something of a conversation between reader and character.

  2. 2

    Examine the scene in which the Narrator meets Tyler Durden on the beach. What kind of undertones does this passage contain? What does it say about how the Narrator views Tyler?

    Upon meeting Tyler, there is an obvious sense of admiration for him on the part of the Narrator. Both characters are in the nude as they become acquainted, giving the scene homoerotic undertones. Tyler then gives his phone number to the Narrator, almost as if they were beginning a possible relationship. The notion that the Narrator has more than simple feelings of admiration for Tyler continue in the novel when Marla and Tyler become acquainted. The Narrator reacts with extreme jealousy, suggesting a greater depth and intensity of emotions for Tyler.

  3. 3

    Both Tyler and the Narrator express that they had little contact with their fathers while growing up. How does this inform their worldview and the founding of fight club?

    Both men initially bond 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. As the novel progresses it becomes clear that Tyler and the Narrator both feel that their fathers did not actually want children or the responsibility they bring. They both feel rejected and even 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.

  4. 4

    The Narrator initially says that he is repulsed by Marla Singer, but later feels great concern and affection for her. What prompts this change in his feelings toward? Do his feelings really change, or does he simply accept how he feels about her?

    The Narrator 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 the Narrator are attempting to make some sort of true human connection with another person. This need, which the Narrator tries to categorize as a weakness, only makes him more self-conscious of his own happiness.

    After Marla and Tyler become regular sex partners, the Narrator becomes jealous. Initially this jealousy is directed at Marla for taking Tyler away from him. However, as the story progresses, Tyler begins to view Marla as a threat. If the Narrator has Marla, he won't need Tyler. Tyler seeks to remove Marla from their lives, prompting the Narrator to confront his feelings toward her. Once the Narrator becomes aware of the true nature of his relationship to Tyler, he is forced to choose who he values most. He chooses to protect Marla.

  5. 5

    The members of Project Mayhem shave their heads and wear identical uniforms. They also have no names or separate identities, closely mirroring military recruits. Have these men found liberation in Tyler's more aggressive philosophy, or have they substituted one form of control 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.

  6. 6

    Examine the Narrator's nihilist attitude toward his life prior to meeting Tyler Durden. The Narrator frequently states that he wished he could die on one of his business trips. Does he actually mean this? Does his worldview free him or does it actually contribute to his condition?

    The Narrator's worldview only perpetuates his own misery. He complains about his job, his boss, and the meaninglessness he encounters in the modern world. However, he takes no steps to change any of it. He continues working at the same job instead of looking for a new one. He attends support-group meetings and pretends to have life-threatening diseases so that someone will listen to him. His attitude is both lazy and selfish. Although he wishes he would die, he doesn't seem to mean it. If he really wanted to end his life that badly, he could on his own. Instead, he lacks the courage, and must create Tyler to initiate change on his behalf.

  7. 7

    What are the men in fight club searching for? Why do their everyday lives fail to satisfy them?

    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.

  8. 8

    Examine the depiction of violence in the novel. Does it glorify it or depict its gruesome realities? What does this say about the notion of using it in self-discovery?

    Palahniuk's depiction of violence in the novel doesn't shield the reader from the physical and psychological toll it takes on the Narrator. The Narrator frequently speaks of how his face no longer holds its own shape. By the end of the novel he has torn open both cheeks in his face, creating a hideous, jagged "smile". The violence has consequences, none of them glorious.

    As each member of Fight Club confronts their fear when they begin fighting, they are forced to also confront who they are and to think about what defines them. This can potentially lead to personal growth. However, Palahniuk's depiction of how the violence slowly destroys the Narrator's body is also cautionary.

  9. 9

    What does Tyler Durden represent in the Narrator's mind? Why does he need to create him to be with Marla Singer?

    Tyler represents the ideal version of the Narrator. He is the person the Narrator wishes he could be. Tyler moves through life confidently without any self-doubt, accurately sizing up everyone around him. He seems to always be the smartest and most charismatic guy in the room. The Narrator wants to be with Marla, but doesn't feel she would accept him as he is. She reminds him so much of himself, but she is honest in how she presents herself. To shield himself from his own lack of self-esteem, the Narrator creates Tyler, his own idea of the perfect man, so that he can be with her.

  10. 10

    Examine the criticism of corporate growth and advertising in the novel. What effect does advertising have on a society's members? Does it change or affect the goals they pursue in life? Do these goals differ between genders or classes or are they basically the same?

    Palahniuk peppers the background of the story with a sense that corporations and advertising are a ubiquitous presence in modern life. Especially in urban environments, advertisements are everywhere we look. The Narrator openly criticizes his own desire to purchase items, later lamenting that "the things you used to own, now they own you."

    Advertising becomes a force to instruct the members of a society on what their values and aspirations should be. In the novel, these momentary glimpses at a perfect world are empty promises that do not sustain the characters meaningfully. The messages that advertising conveys can be tailored to each gender, nationalities, or income brackets. Men may be encouraged to pursue wealth while women may be encouraged to pursue beauty, for example. Whatever the example, the basic premise of advertising is that a purchase of the advertised product will lead the consumer to happiness. Palahniuk grapples with this basic premise and allowing his characters to search for more meaningful paths to fulfillment.