“Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk explores the theme of masculinity through clever characterisation, exploration of conformity and anarchy and through unusual language. The traditional role of man was as the head of the family unit. Looking after and providing for his wife and children in the hunter-gatherer role. What if a man has no wife and children? What is his role? What if the man comes from a broken family where he had no father? How is he supposed to live a good male life if he has no good example to follow? These are some of the issues that Chuck Palahniuk confronts on the theme of masculinity in “Fight Club”.
In this essay I will explore the author’s use of characterisation, conformity, anarchy and interesting and unusual language in support of this main theme.
The characterisation of the main figure is executed particularly well. The characters of Joe and Tyler are cleverly interwoven throughout the novel until the reader’s realisation that they are both actually the same person.
There are a lot of hints in the novel, which suggest this up until it is actually revealed. Several times the narrator, Joe, says, “I know this because Tyler knows this.” This could be taken as meaning that they are very close friends and tell each other everything or that they are both the same person. The author also refers to the idea of multiple personalities in,
“If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?” I think that this illustrates the concept that Joe is a chronic insomniac and changes personality in his sleep. There are many similarities between Joe and Tyler up until we discover they are the same person. They both love Marla but only Tyler sleeps with her. This provides comic moments when we realise that all through the book Marla has been talking to Joe as her lover but Joe has been talking to her as his friend’s girlfriend. Both Joe and Tyler end up looking like each other, “Tyler and I were looking more and more like Identical Twins. Both of us had punched-out cheekbones, and our skin had lost its memory, and forgot where to slide back after we were hit.”
Tyler starts off looking beautiful, an idyllic version of Joe, he is what Joe wishes he could be. This is indicated in “perfectly handsome and an angel in his everything-blond way.” He is smart, funny, and knows all of the interesting facts that Joe wishes he knew, like how to break security locks and make C4 explosives. Joe, after discovering how boring his life is asks, “Deliver me Tyler from being perfect and complete”, In my opinion Tyler starts as an angelic, saviour figure and turns into an evil alter ego once Joe finds out the truth.
The key “Fight Club” theme of masculinity is explored by examining the notions of, conformity and Anarchy. The theme of conformity and non-conformity is examined by the contrast between Joe’s boss and Tyler. Joe’s boss who wears a different tie for each day of the week plays the stereotypical male role. He contrasts directly with Tyler who squats in a house in the warehouse district, urinates in tomato soup at a hotel and splices single frames of pornography into family movies. He is the ultimate non-conformist. This is the exact opposite of “Mister Boss with his midlife spread and family photo on his desk and his dreams about early retirement and winters spent at a trailer-park hookup in some Arizona desert.”
I believe this represents the American Dream and conformity contrasted against Tyler’s vision of anarchy and chaos in a non-conformist nightmare. The language choice in this seems dismissive of the boss’ dream. “Some” suggests that the dream is irrelevant. The boss also represents Joe’s idea of his father. Joe believes that “If you’re male, and you’re Christian and living in America, your father is your model for god. And sometimes you find your father in your career.”