If you have read the book or seen the film, you will know exactly what I am talking about. *wink* And if not? Well, sit down, then. It’s storytime… albeit a story told from an unreliable narrator (one of the tropes I find the most curious and interesting).
From the very first page, we are introduced to our two main characters, the unnamed protagonist and Tyler Durden, a waiter. The duo finds themselves on top of a building, a scene hinting at the way the novel is about to end – and right afterwards, we get drawn into the protagonist’s story.
In the beginning, it puzzled me. After I read the book, in a post-having-seen-the-movie state, I understood. The narrator is nameless. But the main characters in his story aren’t. And neither is the reason for his story to unravel, insomnia, that seemingly appears two years prior to the beginning of his story. But what would be the reasons a person with such a coordinated, mundane, normal – perhaps boring, even – job as that of a product recall coordinator, could have insomnia?
Nevertheless, the insomnia is a fact. A torture. But also the trigger of our story. Our main charcter’sdoctor tells him that if he wants to see real pain, he should try going to a support group.And it is exactly what he does. Visits to support groups for testicular cancer, to support groups for guided meditation. Support groups for tuberculosis. He does not have any of those illnesses – but he feels better after visiting them and crying to let go of his emotions. Thus, he sleeps better, too. Or at least he does until he meets another liar, Marla Singer, with weirder reasons to go to support groups: to feel close to death.
As the meeting has left him quite shaken, the narrator visits car accident sites, trying to determine whether the cars his company makes could have parts in them that are prone to make accidents easier, and tries to take his mind off of support groups. Burned out from travelling here and there, he then decides to take a break. And it’s on that break that he meets Tyler Durden, our third most important character, who gives him his phone number.
When he comes back home, the narrator finds his condominium destroyed in a suspicious explosion. His first reaction is to call Tyler, and they meet in a bar. They end up drinking a lot and Tyler allows the narrator to move in with him, but on one condition – that he will hit him as hard as he can. They start fighting and realise they like it, because it makes them feel alive and “real”. And thus, it begins.
The two continue fighting in parking lots and in bars, attracting the attention of other men, and the secret society of the fight club gets eight rules, two of them stating that ‘you do not talk about fight club!’. Fight club gains more and more members – more and more men who have gotten in touch with how visceral reality is and have rediscovered their masculinity. The narrator starts noticing people with bruises over their faces, people who have obviously also taken part of fight club.
One night the Narrator has a dream that he is having sex with Marla Singer. The next morning Tyler tells him that he met Marla last night and the two of them had sex. The Narrator is angered. Marla was the reason he couldn’t enjoy the support groups, and she has invaded his home life with Tyler too. With Marla in the picture, he will also get less of Tyler’s attention. He comes home every day from work to hear Marla and Tyler having sex and calling each other names.
Tyler receives a call at his house from Marla, and goes to Marla’s hotel. Following this incident, Tyler and Marla begin having loud, frequent sex in the house, irritating the Narrator. Tyler tells the Narrator not to mention him in front of Marla, or the Narrator will never see Tyler again. Tyler also shows the Narrator his other source of income: making soap and selling it to fancy department stores. During one soap-making session, Tyler kisses the Narrator’s hand and pours lye it, giving him a scar that looks like Tyler’s kiss. Tyler insists that he’s trying to get the Narrator to embrace death and pain so that he can find enlightenment.
Marla regularly stops by Tyler’s house to drop off shipments of collagen, removed from her mother’s aging body by liposuction. Secretly Tyler converts the collagen into beautiful, creamy bars of soap, which he sells for a big profit—when Marla finds out, she’s furious. The Narrator notices that he, Tyler, and Marla are never in the same room together.
Marla calls the Narrator and asks him to examine her for breast cancer; they learn that she does have breast cancer, and afterwards, Marla begins attending cancer support groups for real. Meanwhile, the police call the Narrator and tell him that they suspect that someone—possibly the Narrator himself—blew up his condominium. Meanwhile, fight club becomes bigger and bigger, to the point where other chapters spring up across the country.
Tyler and the Narrator decide that they need to blackmail their bosses for the civil disobedience they have been committing on the job. After ensuring checks will continue to be sent to them even though they won’t be working, they are able to focus all their time on fight club. The Narrator learns that Bob has also joined fight club and that there are chapters of fight club that he didn’t even know about.
Tyler decides to escalate his civil disobedience into a larger project called Project Mayhem. He recruits fight club members to join and begins amassing a large following. He hands out homework assignments for the members, including the Narrator. After a while, Tyler suddenly disappears. The Narrator, confused, tries to track down Tyler by going to different bars and clubs. Each time, the bartenders address him as “Sir.” Eventually, the Narrator realizes the truth: everyone thinks that he is Tyler Durden. The Narrator calls Marla and she, too, addresses him as Tyler. Suddenly, Tyler appears before the Narrator and explains that he’s the Narrator’s alter ego. He and the Narrator share the same body, but Tyler is braver and more charismatic than the Narrator—he’s The Narrator’s unconscious, the wish fulfillment of his repressed desires. The Narrator has been the one having sex with Marla, organizing Project Mayhem missions, and converting human fat into soap and explosives. The Narrator, frightened of what he’s becoming, tells Marla the truth.
Tyler “returns” and is upset with the Narrator for discussing him with Marla behind his back. Project Mayhem has begun to take on more extreme assignments and is growing in its number of members. While on an assignment, Bob is killed by a police man. His death prompts the Narrator to try to shut down fight club, but he is thrown out by its members instead.
Upon arriving at work one morning he discovers that his boss is dead. Worse yet, the Narrator knows Tyler is the one who killed him, which means that he killed him, though not wittingly. He boards a bus and tries to get away from the scene before he is spotted. The other passengers are all members of Project Mayhem. They tell him that they have orders to castrate him for trying to shut down fight club. They corner him and knock him out with ether.
The Narrator wakes up in the ruins of his old condominium, (he hasn’t been castrated). He considers committing suicide, but realizes that he cares about Marla and has to protect her. He finds Marla, who tells him that “he” (as Tyler) has murdered more people. The Narrator loses consciousness again, and finds himself at the top floor of a skyscraper (right where he was at the beginning of the novel). Tyler explains that “they” will now die in a blaze of glory.
Suddenly, Marla and the members of her cancer support group walk into the skyscraper, where they find the Narrator pointing a gun at himself. The timer for the bomb goes off, but nothing happens—the Narrator realizes that Tyler and Project Mayhem must have used faulty explosives. Nevertheless, he shoots himself in the face.
In the final chapter of the book, the Narrator reveals that his suicide attempt didn’t work: he shot through his neck and ear, leaving him injured but alive. Tyler hasn’t disturbed him since his suicide attempt. Marla writes him letters while he recovers in the hospital. Occasionally, members of Project Mayhem stop by and, addressing him as “Mr. Durden,” say that they’re eager for him to get back to work.
And, at the end, I’ll only say this: the book and the movie are on par with each other, and neither is better. Trust me. It doesn’t matter which you will consume first. Fight Club is no ordinary story.
And it will haunt you, I believe, as it did with me, for a long, long time.