For this Fight Club Analysis I’m assuming that you’ve read Fight Club? If not then go and read it… now!
The introduction to the book, written by Chuck Palahniuk, he tells how he came to gather the inspiration for writing Fight Club. He says that whilst away on a camping trip he got into a scrap with one of his fellow residents and, upon returning to work, his colleagues were reluctant to ask about his injuries. Under these strange circumstances, it was their blasé approach to his personal life that inspired the book we now know.
Initially released in a limited run of 10,000 copies, remember Palahniuk was an unknown at the time; Fight Club took a while to shift. But when it did eventually sell, things took off. Only 3 years on the film adaptation, starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, was released. Nevertheless, we’re here to talk about the book. More specifically the themes which include; identity, masculinity, existentialism, god complexes, death and Father figure’s to name a few.
However in this Fight Club analysis, I will focus on consumerism, or rather the ‘anti-consumerism‘ of Fight Club and how Palahniuk conveys the art of living without.
Fight Club Analysis: Anti-Consumerism
Throughout Fight Club we’re reminded of the material world around our protagonist us, through the descriptions of our own consumerism consequently displayed in the form of purchasing furniture for our ‘little nests’.
The following quote is given to us by the narrator for the sole purpose of preparing for what lies ahead.
You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple of years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug.
Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.
Tyler Durden believes that life is best lived freely with the ability to challenge society when necessary, which in his case seems to be every day. He doesn’t purchase consumer products and even goes as far as creating his own, as with the soap (another recurring theme). Tyler is adamant that ‘you’re not defined by your possessions but they do detract from who you really are.‘
Living free is in all of Tyler’s actions from; splicing single-frames of pornography into cinema projections, pissing in rich guest’s soup at the hotel, or making soap. In the meantime there is irony in all of this that one of the mechanics points out;
“Fat,” the mechanic says, “liposuctioned fat sucked out of the richest thighs in America. The richest, fattest thighs in the world.”
The fat in the soap is from the rich women who can afford all of these cosmetic treatments and then taking their waste (in this instance fat) and selling it back to them in the form of a luxury soap at twenty dollars a bar.
In this fraudulent nature of his scheme both Tyler and the Narrator turn consumerism on its head. We buy luxury products not just for their nature of being an object but because we feel they give us a social standing. Whether this is peer-pressure to buy a certain brand of trainers, a certain type of MP3 player, a fragrance; we’re buying it because of the status that it affords us. On a basic level, the thought process is, if I purchase this item then my life will be as wonderful as the model on the billboard.
'This is your life and it's ending one moment at a time.' - Fight Club Click To Tweet
These unconscious decisions operate in us daily, whether we want to admit it or not, and Tyler is merely bringing them to the forefront of our minds. We’ve become programmed to want these material possessions because we now believe that they will improve our lives, as is the example above, but the real sacrifice comes from giving up not just the possessions, but the desire to emulate in both the present and the future.
What Does The Future Hold?
Later in the book, the Narrator predicts a bleak future in which major corporations will define society, which in turn will begin to further define our needs. In this case, he uses the example of space-travel and planets to get his point across.
Fast-forward to the future.
This way, when deep-space exploitation ramps up, it will probably be the megatonic corporations that discover all the new planets and map them.
The IBM Stellar Sphere.
The Philip Morris Galaxy.
Every planet will take on the corporate identity of whoever rapes it first.
Furthermore, I’m sure you’d agree, this would be a sorry sight for us all. As the Narrator is aware of his own consumerism, so must we. In a world filled with social media knowing everything there is to know about us; how long we spend online, which places we visit, when we ended our last relationship – this information is valuable to major corporations who can leverage this data and begin to use it against us.
We and I’m speaking about all of us, need to stand firm and reject this cultural shift in the name of self-identity and not buy out of false hope, out of greed, or out of social pressures, but buy only when we must. I’m fully aware this statement feels strange coming from a guy who spends half his time buying books but what can I do?
Did you enjoy Fight Club as much as I did? Have different opinions on the themes running throughout, maybe even a distaste for them? Leave a comment below to join the conversation.
If you enjoyed my content then please check out Jack Durden – Fight Club Theories. The Fight Club analysis included is on another level and is a must-read for fans. Yes, it looks at the film version but it’s an excellent extended read none the less.
Peter Matthews – Diagnosing Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club (Publication, Jan 2005)
“Palahniuk, Chuck (1962-), An Introduction to.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 359. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2014. Contemporary Literary Criticism Online. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. pp. 253-342.
Sam Jordison, The Guardian – First rule of Fight Club: no one talks about the quality of the writing
“Sex, Subjectivity & Representation.” Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. Ed. Chris Barker. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2008. (Publication)
Due to the success of the Fight Club movie, the book has been mass-produced and is easily available, so go and pick up a copy at your local bookstore if you haven’t already.