Academic journal article Humanitas

'God's Middle Children' Metaphysical Rebellion in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club

Academic journal article Humanitas

'God's Middle Children' Metaphysical Rebellion in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club

Article excerpt

  "To kill God and to build a Church are the constant   and contradictory purpose of rebellion" (1)   --Albert Camus 

Throughout their lives, human beings seek meaning, community, and purpose. People want to understand what it means to be alive. They want to love and to be loved by others. They want reasons to live. Happiness is imagined to be the reward for those who are able to satisfy these desires. At the same time, human beings experience the world as a place in which these aspirations are often unfulfilled. This tension between longing and disappointment often prompts questions such as "Why is my life so unsatisfying?" and "What can I do to make my life what it ought to be?" Answers to these questions can differ in levels of sophistication and soundness. Fight Club, written by American author Chuck Palahniuk, is a provocative and compelling novel about Americans that addresses these questions.

Originally published in 1996, Fight Club won a few regional fiction awards in 1997. In 1999, a film-adaptation was released starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. In an afterword to the 2005 paperback edition of the novel, Palahniuk reflects upon the degree to which his story has captured the imagination of American readers and the broader culture. He explains that illegal fight clubs inspired by Fight Club have emerged in different places in the U.S. Academic conferences about the novel have been held. People have legally changed their names to Tyler Durden. He tells a story about going to a haunted house in which the guide changes the rules of fight club into the rules of the tour. According to Palahniuk, the guide had no idea who Palahniuk was or that Fight Club was even a book. About the positive response to his novel since it was originally published he writes, "Since then, thousands of people have written, most of them saying 'thank you.' For writing something that got their son to start reading again. Or their husband. Or their students." (2)

For readers who may be unfamiliar with the story, a brief summary is appropriate. Fight Club is set in the United States during the mid-1990s. As the title itself indicates, violence is a central theme in the novel. In Fight Club, feelings of alienation, powerlessness, and consumer captivity drive the narrator (no real name is given) to rebel against society, to "destroy" his life, and to seek individual meaning and community with other human beings on a new and authentic foundation. He meets a charismatic visionary named Tyler Durden. They become friends, and together they start the first fight club. Growing numbers of young men are drawn to fight club, and fight clubs start to spring up around the country. The characters believe that fighting is the only way to reassert their physical strength and masculinity in a society they perceive as weak and effeminate. But these clubs are about more than men punching and kicking each other in the name of manliness. Wherever it exists, fight club is a community, equipped with dogmas, scriptures, and rituals, devoted to obtaining the truth about existence through acts of violence and self-destruction. Later, the narrator, Tyler, and others start Project Mayhem, a terrorist organization committed to bringing the enlightenment its members have achieved in fight club to the rest of the world. Project Mayhem's first acts of terrorism are crude pranks, but their activities quickly increase in scope and violence. Eventually, the narrator becomes disenchanted with Tyler, fight club, and Project Mayhem, and he tries to stop them all. The novel ends on an ambiguous note when the narrator is confined to an insane asylum.

In Stranger than Fiction, Palahniuk states: "[A]ll my books are about a lonely person looking for some way to connect with other people." (3) For Palahniuk, this theme is especially important in contemporary America. He argues that the American Dream amounts to little more than achieving power and material satisfaction, but success in America brings only emptiness and isolation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.