Chapter by Chapter Summary of Fight Club
As the novel begins we find Tyler Durden holding a gun inside the Narrator’s mouth. Tyler tells the Narrator that the first step toward eternal life is death. The Narrator mentions that he and Tyler used to be friends and that people were always asking him about Tyler. Tyler assures the Narrator that they won’t really die, but that they will become legends. 2. The Narrator reveals that the building they are standing on, the Parker-Morris building, will be demolished in ten minutes. A bomb has been set to knock the building down.
In the building, in the one hundred ninety-one floors, the Space Monkeys in the Mischief Committee of Project Mayhem are throwing file cabinets and furniture out the windows. 3. Now, the Narrator says, there are nine minutes left. He details numerous ways to make home explosives. When the bombs detonate the building will topple onto a national museum, which is Tyler’s true target. The Narrator states the entire situation is really about Marla Singer. He wants to be with Tyler, Tyler wants to be with Marla, Marla wants to be with the Narrator. This creates an awkward triangle.
The Narrator tells Tyler that if he wants to be a legend, he’ll make him a legend. He remembers everything. 4. Chapter 2 moves the narrative to another location entirely. It is not initially revealed where this chapter is set. The Narrator tells us about Bob, a former bodybuilder. Bob holds the Narrator in a tight embrace. The Narrator tells us that Bob has unnaturally large breasts and finely parted blonde hair. Bob cries as he holds the Narrator and then encourages the Narrator to cry as well. The Narrator reveals that Bob is crying because six months prior, his testicles were removed and he began hormone support therapy.
The testosterone ration was too high and his body raised the estrogen to seek a balance. This led to his development of breasts. 5. The Narrator says that this is when he cries, when Bob asks him to. It allows him to lose himself in his despair, he says. He also reveals that Bob loves him because Bob thinks that the Narrator’s testicles were removed too. This is because the two are at a testicular support group called Remaining Men Together. Around them twenty other men are locked in embrace, crying about their lot in life. There is also one woman there: Marla Singer. 6.
Like the Narrator, Marla Singer does not have testicular cancer. The Narrator reveals that he has been seeing Marla at the other support groups he has been crashing. She is faking these conditions just as he is. With Marla watching, the Narrator can’t bring himself to cry. He has to cry in order to sleep. 7. Moving back further in time, the Narrator says that he first began attending the groups two years ago after consulting a doctor about his insomnia. He hopes that the doctor can give him some medication to help him sleep but instead the doctor tells him to get more exercise and chew Valerian root.
The doctor tells him that if he wants to see real pain, he should attend these support group meetings and see the people dying of cancer or stricken with parasites. The Narrator takes up his suggestion. 8. He meets a woman named Chloe who has brain parasites. The Narrator describes her as a “skeleton dipped in yellow wax”. She tells him that the saddest thing about her predicament is that no one would have sex with her. She tries to seduce him, but the Narrator is not aroused. The group then moved to guided meditation. Each participant is encouraged to enter “their cave” and find “their power animal”.
The Narrator’s power animal, he discovers, is a penguin. Then the group members embraced, but the Narrator did not cry then. He didn’t cry until he met Bob. 9. Bob was a bodybuilder who destroyed his body with anabolic steroids. After multiple divorces he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Then he went bankrupt. It was at their first meeting, while Bob was holding the Narrator, that he was able to cry. As a result, he could also finally sleep. “This was freedom”, he says, “Losing all hope was freedom. ” 10. Now that Marla has been attending the meetings, the Narrator cannot cry.
He has gone for three weeks without a good night’s sleep. He decides that when he next sees Marla Singer, he’s going to confront her for the liar and faker that she is and tell her to leave. “This is the one real thing in my life, and you’re wrecking it. ” 11. Chapter 3 introduces a sort of montage sequence in which the Narrator is flying around the country, waking up as he lands at various airports. The Narrator states that every time the plane banked he prayed for it to crash. He works as a recall coordinator for the auto industry. His job is to fly around the country surveying car crashes involving his company’s cars.
His job is to apply a formula to determine if the company should instate a recall or simply prepare to pay out of court settlements in the event of any lawsuits. Whichever the cheaper option happens to be, that is what his company will do. 12. The Narrator begins to talk about Tyler Durden. Tyler worked night jobs and only night jobs. As a projectionist at old movie theaters, he worked to cue the changeover from one reel to another at the right moment in the film. While working this job, Tyler splices frames of pornographic films into the reels of newly released family films.
For a fraction of a second during the film, a close-up of an erection flashes across the screen. Tyler also works as a banquet waiter at a downtown hotel. 13. The Narrator, tired of his job, decides to go on vacation, where he visits a nude beach. There, he meets Tyler Durden. Tyler, naked and covered in gritty sand, pulls driftwood logs out of the sea and drags them to the beach. He constructs a sculpture out of them that casts a shadow in the shape of a human hand. The Narrator watches him do this. When it’s finished, Tyler asks the Narrator what time it is, so that he can know at what time the shadow from the sun is just right.
As Tyler goes to leave the Narrator asks him if he is an artist. Tyler gives him his phone number. 14. Chapter 4 returns to the support group meetings. The Narrator says that the last time he was at the meeting Chloe announced that she no longer had any fear of death. As he arrives tonight, the Narrator learns that Chloe has died. The Narrator says he should feel something at hearing this news, some sort of release. But because Marla is there, watching him, he can’t. During guided meditation, the Narrator only finds Marla in the cave of his power animal.
Marla just smokes her cigarette in the cave. 5. After meditation, the Narrator moves to Marla for the part of the meeting where individuals embrace. He picks her. He confronts her about being a faker. She simply replies that he’s a faker too, and that if he wants to expose her, she’ll expose him as well. The Narrator proposes that they split the week’s meetings up so that they never have to see each other at them. Marla refuses. She wants all the meetings. She tells him that she used to work at a funeral home. She won’t go back to how her life used to be. The Narrator tells her he’s been coming to these meeting for two years.
She relents and says he can have the testicular cancer support group meetings. “This,” the Narrator intones, “is how I met Marla Singer. ” 16. Analysis 17. The novel begins in media res, with a high-energy moment, thrusting us into a situation we know little about. The nameless Narrator is apparently poised to die at the hands of Tyler Durden, who he says is someone who he used to be friends with. The building they are standing on is about to be demolished. The Narrator reveals that the central conflict between he and Tyler all has to do with Marla Singer. The three of them are involved in an awkward love triangle.
The Narrator then moves into telling us about the events that led up to this. 18. As we meet him, the Narrator seems to be a miserable, lonely person. He attends support group meetings to feel some connection with other people. These people, all facing or having faced terrible life-threatening or life-altering diseases and conditions, are the only people he feels he can really relate to. He is numb inside, his life devoid of meaning or direction. 19. As the Narrator begins to discuss his job, he states that he wishes he would die while he is flying around the country, assessing car crashes for his company.
However, it is difficult to believe he is entirely sincere in his suicidal thoughts, due to the passivity of his chosen method of possible suicide. 20. Consider the implications of the Narrator’s job. He is essentially employed to apply his company’s bottom line against the potential cost of human lives. The job is undoubtedly depressing and morally questionable. This dehumanizing practice is echoed in Palahniuk’s overall critique of a consumer-driven society that promises things it cannot deliver but is also revisited in Tyler’s implementation of Project Mayhem.
Consider this contrast in particular in light of Big Bob’s death later in the novel and how it is regarded by the other members. 21. The Narrator’s pattern of self-pity is evident again when he visits a doctor about his insomnia. He wants the doctor to give him pills to help him sleep. The doctor gives him sound advice, stressing that he should find out what the problem is that is causing his insomnia and pay attention to that. Instead the Narrator hopes for a temporary pharmaceutical solution to his problems. The doctor tells him that he should attend a support group meeting and see people dealing with real pain and real problems.
Instead of appreciating the analogy and realizing that he is still healthy enough to change his life and isn’t dying of a terrible disease, the Narrator becomes addicted to the meetings, further wallowing in self-pity and misery. 22. He begins attending one meeting every night of the week for two years, suggesting a highly compulsive nature. During these meetings he can allow himself to embrace his feelings enough to make him cry. Crying allows him to feel accepted, if not by society as a whole, then at least by those around him in the meeting. He can sleep again. Regardless, his life does not change fundamentally.
The Narrator makes no mention of seeking a new job to replace the one he hates. He doesn’t seek out anything to make him happy. His behavior is apathetic, even cowardly. When Marla Singer arrives, ruining his ability to cry freely, he despises her for exposing him to the truth of his deception. 23. Marla is guilty of the same fakery that he is, but she has the fortitude to at least give her real name when she goes to the meetings. The Narrator never gives his real name. He admits that he’s been going to the meetings for so long anyone who might have suspected he was faking has already died. In Marla he sees his lie reflected back at him.
He decides to confront her and tells her that he will expose her. He judges her behavior even though it is the same as his. She does not judge him or confront him. Marla accepts who she is and her situation. She may not like it but she doesn’t complain. Despite their differences, the two of them are looking for the same thing from the meetings: meaningful contact. 24. Consider the implications of the Narrator’s deception of the members of the support groups as the novel progresses. Even though the Narrator is searching for human contact, he is also exploiting the members of these groups to earn a certain status.
Though that status is largely more about acceptance, it is no less a manipulation. Compare and contrast this with Tyler Durden’s interactions with the Narrator and members of fight club as the novel progresses. 25. The Narrator goes on vacation and visits a nude beach, where he meets Tyler. While the Narrator does not make any sort of obvious statements about physical attraction to Tyler, this scene has undeniable homoerotic overtones. The two men meet on a nude beach, both naked, and exchange contact information.
While a sexual relationship may not be what the Narrator is seeking from Tyler, there is the sense that he admires him and wants to become better acquainted with him. As Chapter 4 ends, the Narrator has met a man to whom he is attracted and a woman he claims he detests. Keep this in mind in particular as both men discuss the roles that their fathers did (or did not) play in their lives. The Narrator seems to be striving for the acceptance of a father figure in his life. Tyler comes to be that figure. 26. Some scholars have also taken particular interest in the passage in which Tyler Durden splices pornography nto family films.
Krister Friday, for example, asserts that Tyler’s subliminal insertion of an erection into family films is itself an assertion of masculine prowess in an otherwise emasculated world or medium. This use of the image of an erection as a means of protest can be seen as a strike against the concept of a weakening masculine identity in contemporary society. That this image is meant to shock or disturb also suggests that Tyler Durden’s view is that masculinity itself has become something to be marginalized and forgotten, replaced with a dynamic that some scholars see more akin to the feminine.
This view also suggests that Tyler’s philosophy has misogynistic tendencies, blaming a “generation of women” for raising their sons to be less than men. 27. Chapter 5 begins with the Narrator talking to a security task force officer at the airport. The officer tells the Narrator that the suitcase he checked at Dulles Airport had to be removed from his flight because it was vibrating. The Narrator says he had everything in that suitcase: His shirts, pants, shoes and ties. Usually, the security task force officer says, the vibration is an electric razor. Sometimes, however, it is a vibrator.
His suitcase was inspected by the bomb squad on an abandoned runway. The Narrator’s electric razor was the culprit. 28. 29. The Narrator leaves the airport in a cab, spending his last ten dollars to get home. When he arrives at his condominium building he finds that his unit has exploded, leaving a gaping hole where all his belongings used to be. He has no idea how this happened. The Narrator mourns over the loss of his designer furniture. “Something… had blasted my clever Njurunda coffee tables in the shape of a lime green yin and an orange yang that fit together to make a circle. He goes through laundry list of all the designer items that used to populate his condominium.
“The people I know who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography, now they sit in the bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalogue. ” 30. The doorman tells the Narrator that the police were there, asking a lot of questions. They believe the gas might have been left on, filling the unit until the compressor on the refrigerator turned on and ignited the gas. The doorman tells the Narrator that it isn’t worth going up to his floor because nothing is left. The Narrator goes to the lobby and uses the phone to call
Tyler. “Oh Tyler, please deliver me from clever furniture,” he intones to himself. Tyler answers the phone and agrees to meet the Narrator at a bar. 31. The two men drink a good deal of beer and Tyler tells the Narrator that he can move in with him. His suitcase would arrive the next day. Both drunk, Tyler asks the Narrator to do him a favor. The Narrator asks what it is and Tyler responds, “I want you to hit me as hard as you can. ” 32. In Chapter 6, the Narrator is at work seated in a conference room for a demonstration his company is making to Microsoft.
The presentation is the Narrator’s, but his boss is making the presentation because the Narrator has a black eye and stitches in the side of his face that are coming loose. He sits in the meeting swallowing blood. The Narrator states that tomorrow night is fight club, and that he is not going to miss fight club. Throughout the chapter, the Narrator lists the rules of fight club. They are: 33. 1. You do not talk about fight club. 34. 2. You do not talk about fight club. 35. 3. When someone says stop or goes limp, the fight is over. 36. 4. Only two guys to a fight. 37. 5.
No shirts or shoes are to be worn. 38. 6. Fights go on as long as they have to. 39. 7. If it is your first night at fight club, you have to fight. 40. Now that fight club is in his life, the Narrator says, everything else has fallen to the side. Nothing seems to upset him anymore. He no longer feels the need to go to the gym in order to look like a male model. Fight club has become the reason for him to go to the gym, trim his nails, and keep his hair short. Fight club, he explains, is not about winning or losing. The Narrator describes a feeling more akin to spiritual salvation.
His narrative flashes back to his first fight with Tyler at the bar. After their fight, the Narrator asks Tyler what he was really fighting. Tyler answers that he was fighting his father. Now, fight club meets every Saturday night in the basement of a bar where Tyler lays out the rules. Most of the men in fight club, he explains, are there because they are too afraid to fight something else in their lives. After a few fights, the fear dissipates quickly. 41. The Narrator discusses how neither he nor Tyler had strong father figures in their lives.
The Narrator’s father left when he was six years old. He would speak to him on the phone roughly once a year. He refers to himself as a member of a generation of men raised by women. 42. The Narrator spots Walter from Microsoft looking at him during the meeting. He describes Walter as a young guy with perfect skin and teeth the the kind of job you’d write the alumni magazine about. The Narrator stares at him with blood shining on his lips and a bruise that takes up half his face. 43. Chapter 7 44. Chapter 7 begins to detail the Narrator’s new home life, living with Tyler.
The Narrator explains that the house that he shares with Tyler is a large 7-bedroom, three floor home that is awaiting a zoning change or a will to come out of probate before it is torn down. It is falling apart and every time it rains the fuses in the basement have to be pulled so no one gets electrocuted. There are old stacks of magazines in the basement that were left by a previous owner. In one of the oldest of the magazines, the Narrator finds a series of articles where organs of the human body talk about themselves in the first person. “I am Jack’s heart,” for example. The house, on Paper Street, is completely isolated.
Tyler and the Narrator are alone for a half mile in every direction. 45. One morning, in the house that the Narrator occupies with Tyler, the Narrator finds a used condom floating in the toilet. The Narrator mentions that he was having vivid sex dreams the night before. In these dreams he was having sex with Marla Singer. He meets Tyler in the kitchen. Tyler is covered in hickies and says that he met Marla Singer and they had sex. 46. The Narrator explains that the night before, he called Marla to see if he could attend a support group without her being there. Marla answers and tells the Narrator that she has taken too many Xanax pills.
She sarcastically claims that it isn’t a real suicide attempt, just a cry for help. She invites him to come over to watch her die. The Narrator says no and goes to the support group. Tyler came home from his banquet waiter job as Marla called to say she was close to death. In the Narrator’s opinion, Marla isn’t worth saving, but Tyler doesn’t know her and races to her room at the Regent Hotel to save her. He also calls the police, who arrive just after he does.
Tyler gets Marla out of the hotel unnoticed as Marla tells the police that the girl who lives in her room “has no faith in herself. He brings her back to the house on Paper Street. She can’t fall asleep or she might not wake up. She tells Tyler he has to keep her up all night. 47. The Narrator is upset to hear all of this from Tyler, but doesn’t tell him so. He is intensely jealous of the fact that Marla now has Tyler’s attention instead of him. Marla drove him from the support groups. Now she has invaded his home and taken Tyler too. 48. As Chapter 8 opens, the Narrator’s boss sends him home because of all the dried blood on his pants. He has been spending his time at work writing haiku poems and faxing them to everyone.
Every night he now comes home to hear Tyler and Marla having sex. Still, he claims he never sees them together. Tyler is never around when Marla is. 49. To wash the blood-stained pants, the Narrator needs soap. Tyler shows him how to make it. He tells the Narrator to get rid of Marla, to tell Marla to go out and buy a can of lye. The Narrator compares this to being six-years-old again, passing messages between his parents. Marla is in the kitchen burning the inside of her arm with the end of a clove cigarette. He cleans her up and gives Marla ten dollars and his bus pass.
She shows him a bridesmaid’s dress she bought at a thrift store. He puts her shoes on her feet and she tries to bond a little with him. The Narrator is distant. “I can’t win with you, can I? ” she says before setting out for the store. 50. A few seconds after Marla leaves, Tyler appears as if out of nowhere. He says they need to render fat to make soap. He pulls a few Ziploc bags out of the freezer, each containing lumps of fat. He places these lumps in boiling water and tells the Narrator to stir the water while the fat dissolves, skimming off the top layer of tallow and setting it aside.
They begin to discuss Marla. Tyler responds that at least she is trying to hit rock bottom. Tyler tells him that he has much farther to go. The Narrator does not respond but continues to stir and skim. 51. Marla returns from the store. Tyler has disappeared like magic. She hands over the lye, asking what it is that the Narrator is making. The Narrator asks her to leave, abruptly. She gives him a kiss on the cheek and tells him to call her. As soon as she is gone, Tyler reappears. He asks the Narrator to do him another favor: never talk to Marla about him. He makes the Narrator promise three times.
The tallow in the fridge is beginning to separate into layers. The clear layer on top is glycerin. 52. Tyler takes the Narrator’s hand in his. He licks his own lips and kisses the Narrator’s hand. Tyler takes the can of lye and pries the lid off before pouring the lye onto the Narrator’s hand, giving him a chemical burn in the shape of a kiss. 53. Analysis 54. As the Narrator returns from his business trip he literally returns empty-handed. With his condominium completely destroyed, his suitcase now contains the only belongings he still has. He has lost all of the “clever furniture” he spent so much time amassing.
While he laments the loss of these individual pieces, he is also completely aware of how little they actually give his life meaning or to make him happy. They have become a goal unto themselves, a means to demonstrate one’s status and overall sense of worth . As he calls Tyler he hopes to be delivered from this perfect life which is anything but. From afar he seems like a successful young professional. He has a condominium full of designer furniture, he lives alone, is self-sufficient, and has a well-paying job to sustain this life. However, it is undeniable that he is isolated, alone, and unhappy about the life he has. 5.
Tyler, on the other hand, seems completely free of these sort of concerns. He is not mired in a material existence. When he and the Narrator meet on the beach, Tyler assembles a piece of art for no other purpose than to create. In Tyler, the Narrator sees a freedom to life that he has never enjoyed as an adult. After finding his condominium in ruins, he calls Tyler instead of calling Marla. The fact that he seems to only have these two options for people to call indicates that there are no other people in his life. 56. Palahniuk introduces Tyler immediately after introducing Marla.
The two characters are purposely juxtaposed to present two potential paths. Marla comes across as dark and nihilistic while Tyler seems to brim with life and possibility. Consider these characterizations as the novel progresses and how they change. Palahniuk also invokes religious language in the Narrator’s plea to Tyler. Lines like “Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete” (p. 46) and “the phone rang and Tyler answered” (p. 45) invoke Tyler as a messianic savior figure. Palahniuk uses religious language throughout the novel, returning to the notion of salvation when describing how the Narrator feels at fight club.
Later chapters will visit notions of Tyler as a father figure and God. 57. After meeting Tyler in a bar we see the genesis of fight club. Tyler asks the Narrator to him as hard as he can and they have their first fight. As we catch up with the Narrator in Chapter 6 we can see the results of that fight. The Narrator’s appearance is bad enough that his boss decides to deliver the presentation to Microsoft personally instead of letting the Narrator do it. 58. With fight club in his life, the emptiness now seems to be filled. In fact, fight club has become the most important thing in his life.
He has no interest in the presentation or his job as he sits in the meeting. All he can think of is the next meeting of fight club. He is no longer concerned with his job or obsessing over his physical appearance. He does not feel the compulsion to fit in time at the gym to look more “masculine”. Fight club provides him with the means to reconnect with himself. As the Narrator states, it isn’t about winning or losing. The men at fight club are destroying the old ideas of who they are to strip away all the unnecessary parts that have accrued.
Only through this figurative (and partially physical) self-destruction do they feel they can actually discover who they are, and what they are really capable of. Tyler explains that each of the men in fight club is afraid of something in their lives that they want to fight. Fight club helps them lose that fear. 59. The Narrator locks eyes with Walter, a Microsoft representative, who he describes as having soft, clear skin and perfect teeth. Walter represents everything that the Narrator used to pine after: a “complete” life. The Narrator sits in the dark, blood pooling in his mouth, and his gaze meets Walter’s.
Although the Narrator makes assumptions about the kind of life Walter lives, there is the implication that he is right and that he can see right through Walter. Even more important is that Walter is also aware of this. Up until now, he has always been the impressive one. The Narrator’s gaze transmits two pieces of information to Walter: he is not impressed and that he almost feels sorry for Walter. 60. Tyler and the Narrator also discuss their fathers. This is a theme that the novel returns to several times. Both men feel abandoned and neglected by their fathers, individuals who they feel had little interest in them as children.
Tyler states openly that the thing he is really fighting is his father. Because of the lack of father figures in their lives, Tyler states that he and the Narrator are members of a generation raised by women. As such, they have little sense of their identities as men. Their existence has always been in relation to women, and not themselves. Their fathers were their only models for adult males. Because their fathers failed them, Tyler advocates the destruction of their memory. Only by shedding that model can they improve upon and be better than their fathers. 61.
Chapter 7 allows us to see the home life that the Narrator and Tyler now share. The Narrator’s worlds collide when he discovers that Marla and Tyler have met and are regular sex partners. The Narrator’s jealousy towards Marla suggests a homoerotic fixation on Tyler. It is debatable whether the Narrator seeks to replace Marla and take her place. Palahniuk never states openly that the Narrator seeks a physical relationship with Tyler. It is possible that these overtones are there to suggest a greater complexity to male relationships than most heterosexual men would normally acknowledge. 62.
Marla’s own issues also become apparent in this chapter. Driven by her loneliness and possibly by the loss of the Narrator’s presence in her life, she turns to suicide. She calls the Narrator so that at least someone can hear her pass, to know that she ever existed. Instead, Tyler answers the phone and rushes to prevent her death. When the Narrator hears of this, he is disgusted. Although we don’t learn a great deal about Marla in the novel, her actions suggest that the connection she made with the Narrator, however awkward and brief, was meaningful to her. Although she is far from stable, she did find common ground with the Narrator.
They were both behaving in the same reprehensible manner, but this allowed her to feel a kind of acceptance from him. She too seems to have no one in her life to turn to. So she contacts the Narrator to let him know that she is essentially giving up. Marla reminds the Narrator too much of himself and how he behaved while in the support groups. His presence at them was a lie, and Marla only reflected that back to him. Getting away from her allowed him to distance himself from his own issues as well. With her now back in the picture, he is upset that he has to deal with them again.
Worse yet, Tyler is no longer paying attention to him. 3. Chapter 8 finds the Narrator’s tension with his boss beginning to escalate. His boss sends him home because of his appearance and the blood stains on his clothes. He is overjoyed that he can leave work early. To wash his clothes, he will need soap. He needs Tyler to show him how to make some. In order to make some, Tyler will need lye. He tells the Narrator to instruct Marla to go and buy flakes of lye. This sets up an interesting scene in which the Narrator demonstrates some warmth toward Marla. 64. Marla is in the kitchen burning herself with the end of a clove cigarette, quoting some of Tyler’s philosophy as she does.
The Narrator takes the cigarette from her and washes the burns on her arm with a rag before putting her feet in shoes and sending her off. Although the Narrator’s intention is to get Marla out the door, he does so lovingly, suggesting that he does have feelings for her. 65. Tyler also understands the threat that his relationship with Marla poses to his relationship with the Narrator. He asks the Narrator to promise never to speak to Marla about him. Although the full reasons for this are not entirely clear at this point in the novel, this is an important scene to remember.
Tyler wants Marla to know as little about him as possible and he doesn’t want for her and the Narrator to get too closely acquainted. 66. Chapter 8 ends with Tyler applying a chemical burn to the Narrator’s hand. At first this may seem like he is punishing the Narrator and asserting his dominance over him. Although this is not a misguided interpretation, Tyler’s true goal is to push the Narrator further down towards rock bottom and enlightenment. 67. The Narrator fights through the pain of the chemical burn on his hand. He begins to use guided meditation to escape from it. Tyler notices, telling him to come back to the pain.
Tyler tells the Narrator that this is the greatest moment of the Narrator’s life. The Narrator imagines himself in Ireland, on a trip he took after he left college. During this trip he visited the Blarney Stone, but instead of kissing it, he urinated on it. This small act of rebellion, the Narrator thinks, might have been his first yearning for anarchy and chaos. 68. Tyler explains to the Narrator that in ancient history, human sacrifices were made on a hill overlooking a river. The bodies were burned in a pyre. The rain washed a thick discharge into the river. This was a lye solution.
When people washed their clothes at this point in the river, they found that they became cleaner than usual. This led to the discovery of soap. Without these sacrifices, he says, we would have had no progress. 69. Tyler continues to stress that until the Narrator accepts his own mortality and how his sacrifice can help the greater good, he is of no use. First, he has to hit rock bottom. 70. The Narrator imagines himself back at the Blarney Stone site. He imagines himself urinating on the Stone, except that he is actually wetting his pants as he sits in front of Tyler. Tyler pours vinegar on the Narrator’s hand and neutralizes the lye.
He tells the Narrator that he is one step closer to rock bottom. 71. Tyler says that it was right for those human sacrifices to have taken place because it allowed for progress. The first soap was made from the ashes of heroes. Because of their sacrifices, like the first monkeys shot into space, we have all benefited. 72. Chapter 10 73. This chapter finds both the Narrator and Tyler in an elevator working as waiters at a banquet. They are taking a buffet cart to a banquet.
The Narrator stops the elevator so Tyler can urinate into a bisque. The Narrator lists a number of other occasions where he and Tyler have befouled food before serving it. 4. As the elevator stands locked in place, the Narrator describes the scene in the main banquet room. Here, the rich patrons (“the giants”) know the tip is included in the bill so they treat the wait staff poorly. They send back food for no reason at all, for example, just to see people run around to earn their money. 75. The Narrator then tells a story about a dinner party that Tyler worked in the past. During the party the hostess came into the kitchen holding a scrap of paper, her hand shaking, wanting to know if the waiters saw any of her guests go into her bedroom.
They say they are only supposed to be in the kitchen, dining room, and the garage. The host appears and tells the hostess that everything will be alright. She drops the note and they return to the party. One of the other waiters asks what the note says. Without looking at it, Tyler says out loud “I have passed an amount of urine into at least one of your many elegant fragrances. ” Tyler explains that he did not actually urinate in any of the bottles but that the hostess doesn’t know that. 76. The rest of the night Tyler makes sure to keep refilling the hostess’s glass.
After the guests begin to leave, the other wait staff begin to question whether Tyler should have done that. The hostess has begun throwing all of the expensive perfume into the toilet and has cut herself accidentally on the broken bottles. She is waving a bottle around at her husband, accusing him of infidelity. Tyler reasons that this woman’s perfume collection costs more than any one of them will make in a year and that the perfume is made from whales.
Most people, he says, have never even seen a whale. 77. Tyler finishes befouling the soup in the elevator and the two return to the party. 78. Chapter 11 9. On a Saturday night, the Narrator and Tyler are hiding out in the front seat of a 1968 Impala in a used-car lot. They are avoiding the house because Marla may be looking for them there. The Narrator explains that the Marla gave them a package containing liposuctioned fat that her mother had sent her. The fat was for a collagen lip injection. Tyler decided to use this fat to make soap, which was now selling very well to high class retail department stores. Tyler began sending Marla’s mother telegrams urging her to send Marla more fat. The Narrator says he was aware of Tyler’s plan but didn’t stop him.
When Marla found out she threatened to call the police, so the two men decided it might be best to avoid the house for a while. 80. The Narrator laments not stepping in earlier to stop Tyler. Tyler reminds him that his life could be worse. 81. Chapter 12 82. Back at his job, the Narrator is visited by his boss while he sends out letters alerting owners of a defect in their cars. His boss holds up a piece of paper on which are typed the rules of fight club. The Narrator’s insomnia has returned and he has left the original he typed in the copy machine.
Tyler has asked for him to type up the rules and make ten copies. 3. His boss is angry and asks the Narrator what he’s doing using office equipment for purposes unrelated to his job. He asks the Narrator what he would do in his position. The Narrator answers that he’d be very careful with that piece of paper. Whoever typed that, he tells his boss, is a dangerous and psychotic person who could go over the edge at any point and bring a semiautomatic rifle to work. The Narrator describes to his boss, in detail, how this person is probably spending his nights at home filing a cross into the tip of all of his rounds so they split upon impact, causing more damage to his victims.
His boss is speechless. The Narrator recites the rules of fight club to him aloud. 84. In his head, the Narrator makes a list of all the defects in the cars his company manufactures; defects that cause serious injury and death to the occupants. His company has always denied any such knowledge. He snatches the paper out of his boss’s hand, giving him a paper-cut in the process. He tells his boss that the paper is not his, though it is completely apparent it is. 85. The Narrator goes to attend a support group meeting to find that only Big Bob is there. The Narrator asks him where everybody is.
Bob answers that the group has disbanded but that he’s found a new group, only this group has rules and the first two rules are that you don’t talk about it. Bob proceeds to inform the Narrator about two separate fight clubs that meet on different nights at different locations. The Narrator has no knowledge of these other chapters. The Narrator reasons that Tyler is working most nights… so who is running these other chapters? Big Bob asks the Narrator if he knows the man who invented fight club, Tyler Durden. 86. Analysis 87. Tyler’s deliberate infliction of pain on the Narrator signals a shift in the extremity of his philosophy.
After administering lye to the Narrator’s hand, Tyler presents a history of the origin of soap. Tyler advocates that human sacrifice is a noble and good thing, that it benefits the rest of the members of a society. Without this sacrifice, there cannot be any progress. Tyler’s aim in inflicting this pain on his friend is to make the inevitability of death a lucid and undeniable fact. We do not tend to go through our day-to-day lives thinking about how they will one day end. Tyler’s belief is that until we are strong enough to take this step, we cannot truly appreciate life. 88.
To escape this pain, the Narrator harkens back in his mind to a memory of visiting the Blarney Stone in Ireland after he finished college. After getting drunk at a pub he goes to the site and urinates on the famous landmark instead of kissing it. It is, he discerns, his first act of rebellion, his first taste of chaos and anarchy. Palahniuk takes this opportunity to ridicule the rite of passage that so many privileged American college graduates take to “find themselves. ” The Narrator is consciously aware of his status and how his American urine is “too yellow and rich with vitamins”.
He doesn’t want to kiss the Blarney Stone, he wants to destroy it and all it represents. Hundreds will come in the days after he visited it to place their lips on the Stone and kiss it for luck, an object he used as a toilet. He isn’t looking for luck in what he feels is a mere tourist destination. 89. Tyler’s allegory about soap and human sacrifice suggests an ideology in which the loss of human life is necessary to bring about meaningful change. Tyler discusses how human sacrifice led to the advancement of soap and cleanliness, but this cleansing is not purely corporeal.
Tyler uses many of the same ingredients used to make soap to make explosives. These explosives are intended for use in terrorist activities to topple the existing structure of civilization. This act is also a kind of cleansing which could exact its own toll on human life. These sacrificial victims could be his own followers as well as unsuspecting innocent bystanders.
The extremism of Tyler’s ideology begins to take on fascist tendencies, but it can also be seen as a cautionary tale on the possible extremism of any ideology, regardless of where it falls on the political spectrum. 0. Palahniuk’s commentary on class distinction continues in the next chapter, where we see Tyler and the Narrator using their jobs as banquet waiters to befoul food before they serve it to their rich clientele. The homoerotic overtones in the novel also return in this scene as the Narrator watches Tyler unzip his pants and place his penis in a container of soup to urinate in it. Although Tyler asks him not to watch him, the Narrator describes how the sight of Tyler’s penis in the soup is humorous, like an elephant drinking while wearing a white shirt. 91.
The Narrator describes the patrons themselves as rich people who are amused by the sight of others doing their bidding for money. While Palahniuk’s description of them certainly makes us sympathetic to Tyler and the Narrator’s antics, the story of a prank Tyler pulls at a dinner party is less amusing. In this scenario, Tyler leaves a note in a wealthy socialite’s bedroom, stating that he has urinated in at least one of her expensive perfume bottles. Although he has not done anything of the sort, he has convinced the woman that someone at her dinner party has done so.
After ensuring that she has plenty to drink, Tyler is amused to hear that the woman has suffered a nervous breakdown and cut herself while disposing of all of her perfume. The other waitstaff feel that he might have gone too far. Tyler’s defense is that if they want to tell their boss, they can go ahead. He would rather get fired and have to make decisions instead of treading water like he has in his life. Tyler demonstrates no sympathy for this woman, whose life has become arguably just as much a cage as the lives of the wait staff she has employed.
While Tyler’s actions may force her to question her priorities, his actions are still more destructive than they are helpful. The woman must go to the hospital to treat her cuts. To defend his actions, Tyler deflects any criticism by attacking the other waitstaff members for clinging to their jobs instead of making real decisions about their lives. Tyler employs this very technique at numerous times in the novel to convince others of his philosophy. 92. Tyler’s emerging darker side also seems to influence the Narrator.
When his boss confronts him about the paper he finds in the copy machine, the Narrator launches into a chilling story, threatening his boss’s life as well as the lives of everyone else he works with. His boss is stunned, completely unsure of how to act in the face of this behavior from an employee. The Narrator completely undermines his authority with this threat, sending a message to his boss that he will no longer be subject to the terms of the power structure that comprises their relationship. 93. Because his insomnia has returned, the Narrator returns to the support groups.
His return to this old behavior suggests that fight club hasn’t satisfied all his needs. The revelation that other fight club chapters exist and have been in operation without his knowledge lead him to question how his insomnia has been affecting him. Has he been awake or asleep? Is he awake now? Here, Palahniuk is foreshadowing the largest reveal in the novel. 94. Chapter 13 95. The Narrator goes to the Regent Hotel to see Marla after she calls him. She has found a lump in her breast and needs someone to look at it. She is willing to forgive the collagen incident if the Narrator will do this for her. 96. 97.
Marla lies on her bed and the Narrator examines her. While he does this he relates a story of how he once had a genital wart removed when he was in college. The doctors used liquid nitrogen to remove it. They noticed a splotch on his right foot, which they thought was similar to the marks of a new cancer that was afflicted gay men. He tells them it is just a birthmark, much to their disappointment. Still, whenever his foot is exposed, such as when he is at the beach, he covers the birthmark. He doesn’t want people to think he might be dying of cancer. He tells Marla amusing stories about his grandparents and their relationship.
He says he wants to try to get her to laugh and cheer her up. He decides not to tell her about the last time he spoke to Chloe and how she looked at the time. 98. Chapter 14 99. The Narrator gives us background information on Marla. After finding the first lump, she went to a clinic. The depressing atmosphere at the clinic convinced her she no longer wanted to know about the lump. After finding a second lump, she began attending the support groups. The Narrator explains that Marla is destitute and has no health insurance. After deciding that she didn’t want to know if she was going to die, she began working at a funeral home.
She began going to the support groups to be around “other human butt wipe. ” It helped to see other people with much larger problems than hers. Some of these people that she met died. Marla tells the Narrator that she would get phone calls from dead people. The phone would ring and no one would be on the other end. 100. A detective from the arson unit at the police department calls the house to ask about the condominium explosion. The detective suspects that the explosives used were homemade. While the detective speaks to the Narrator, Tyler stands next to him, whispering his philosophy into the Narrator’s ear.
The detective asks questions that suggest that the police suspect the Narrator of destroying his own condominium. The detective tells him not to leave town. 101. Chapter 15 102. Tyler and the Narrator begin blackmailing their bosses to keep paying them under the threat of making their antics as a projectionist and banquet waiters public. Tyler goes to the projectionist union and the Narrator confronts the manager of the Pressman Hotel. Both men confess what they’ve been doing and both stress that they have nothing to lose. The union president beats Tyler up when he hears what Tyler has been splicing pornography into films.
The Narrator beats himself to a pulp in front of the manager of the Pressman Hotel. They both threaten to go public if they do not continue to receive regular paychecks. As the Narrator is covered in blood and pleading with the manager to give in to his demands, the security guards he called enter to see their boss standing over a beaten man. 103. Chapter 16 104. The Narrator discusses acts of vandalism that have been occurring around the city and are being reported in the news. He wonders if they are part of Project Mayhem. The Narrator explains that Project Mayhem has committees that met on different nights of the week.