INSTITUTO DE LITERATURA Y CIENCIAS DEL LENGUAJE                   FACULTAD DE FILOSOFÍA Y EDUCACIÓN              PROYECTO ...
ii          “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.                    Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read.”  ...
iii1. Abstract…………………………………………………………………………….22. Introduction………………………………………………………………………..33. Theoretical framework……………………...
iv6. Works cited………………………………………………………………………..40
AbstractThis paper aims to discuss Chuck Palahniuk’s portrayal of the state of postmodern reality,postmodern masculinity a...
3                                          Introduction       In a world where male role models are dictated by advertisem...
4                                      Theoretical framework       This framework is intended to provide an overview of th...
5copy” (Palahniuk, 21) In other words, the novel, the literary text (as well as the movie) would bethe embodiment of a pos...
6         Similarly pertinent to the analysis of Palahniuk’s novel are R. W. Connell’s ideas on themasculinity, especially...
7male role-model provided by a father figure, the narrator has been accepting what postmodernculture, mass media and adver...
8             Chapter I: Everything is a copy of a copy: Simulation in Fight Club       Before addressing issues such as t...
9the unnamed narrator’s (and also the main character) experiences take place in a world whereeverything seems to be handle...
10for a pharmaceutical solution to his problems. He, instead, suggests that the narrator attendsupport groups for people s...
11himself some of the symptoms." Interestingly enough, it can be argued that it is not the narratorhimself the one who has...
12       However, such relief does not last long due to the intrusion of Marla Singer, also feigningto be ill, at the same...
13of Tyler Durden because he exists only as a result of the work of the narrator’s mind while he isunable to sleep. Tyler ...
14I dont really sleep.” (173) Such acknowledgement on the narrator’s part –that he never actuallyslept– is followed by a f...
15       In light of this, I would like to discuss Baudrillard’s revision of the Iconoclasts’ ideasabout God, which states...
16also indicative of Tyler’s status as a savior figure, especially the verb at the end of the sentence(to answer) which is...
17       This statement summarizes Durden’s view of God not as benevolent or reliable, butindifferent to the human conditi...
18        Chapter II: You have to fight: Constructing male gender and a discourse of protest       The notion of gender as...
19installed in debates regarding sexual and gender identity but also feminism and human rightstheory.          The post-st...
20postmodern men’s consumerism depicted in the novel; unknowingly, men now find themselvesshopping because the ownership o...
21          Gender is, however, always subject to mutation. According to Butler, the possibilities ofsuch transformation a...
22from the comfort implied in such a spoon-fed approach to life. As Butler argues, the effect ofgender must be understood ...
23finds comfort with the victims of testicular cancer, after a former bodybuilder named Bobembraces him:       (…) [T]hen ...
24narrator, but also other men– with the opportunity to free themselves from the plight of their livesby beating each othe...
25conducted on the field that suggested that this was true of European culture itself before theeighteenth century.. Women...
26masculinity is embodied in men’s tendency towards consumerism. The male performance of suchcultural acts has resulted in...
27       Such allusion may well fit the picture of a rejected group of men, which is, in this case, alarge group of postmo...
28themselves.” (191). He sustains that many people today remain convinced that gender is in someway rooted in biology. As ...
29       The shuttle takes me to downtown Phoenix and every bar I go into there are guys with       stitches around the ri...
30can see signs of the co-production that Edley describes as a constitutive element of one’s identityin the fighting club....
31God, whether good mothers are born or made, what makes people be the ruler and the ruled, andwhether he will see the day...
32women benefit from the education they receive and they eventually make their own money (17-18). All these contemporary c...
33the last sentence of the aforementioned excerpt, Fight Club is an organization with a growingmembership constituted by i...
34sense of accomplishment, have merely demonstrated his buying power. Thus the narrator toyswith the idea of self-destruct...
35eventually quits as he becomes uncomfortable with the increasing destruction of the group(particularly after Bob –the sa...
36for his father and God has ceased as he has found both figures in himself. In regards to the role offather and its justi...
37                                           Conclusion       Although the narrator intended to overcome his discomfort wi...
38scale as an anti-corporate organization and ended up with one of its own members being killedduring an operation.       ...
39                                         Works CitedBaudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Gra...
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“Simulation of authority figures and self-destruction as a discourse of protest in the postmodern world in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club”

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This paper aims to discuss Chuck Palahniuk’s portrayal of the state of postmodern reality, postmodern masculinity and the role of authority figures such as that of the father and that of God in his novel Fight Club. Discomforted and frustrated, the unnamed narrator is a fine example of the postmodern man: he struggles with the consumer-driven goals of society, the diminished condition of manhood in a Hyperreal world and the emptiness such world makes him feel.
By analyzing works from the perspective of gender studies and psychology, this project intends to explore and review concepts such as social constructionism of gender, fatherhood, simulation, and Hyperreality in order to discuss broader topics such as violence and self-destruction as means to reassert masculinity and as a discourse to protest against postmodern society.

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“Simulation of authority figures and self-destruction as a discourse of protest in the postmodern world in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club”

  1. 1. INSTITUTO DE LITERATURA Y CIENCIAS DEL LENGUAJE FACULTAD DE FILOSOFÍA Y EDUCACIÓN PROYECTO FINAL DE SEMINARIO DE GRADUACIÓN PARA OPTAR AL GRADO DE LICENCIADO EN LENGUA Y LITERATURA INGLESA“Simulation of authority figures and self-destruction as a discourse of protest in the postmodern world in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club” Estudiante: Eduardo Soto González Profesor guía: Catalina Forttes Zalaquett Fecha: 06 de Julio de 2012
  2. 2. ii “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read.” (Often attributed to Groucho Marx)Table of contents
  3. 3. iii1. Abstract…………………………………………………………………………….22. Introduction………………………………………………………………………..33. Theoretical framework……………………………………………………………44. Analysis Chapter I: Everything is a copy of a copy: Simulation in Fight Club…………….8 Chapter II: You have to fight: Constructing male gender and a discourse of protest……………………………………………………………....19 Chapter III: A father to complete ourselves: The role of male parents in the postmodern world………………………………………………….....315. Conclusion………………………………………………………………………...38
  4. 4. iv6. Works cited………………………………………………………………………..40
  5. 5. AbstractThis paper aims to discuss Chuck Palahniuk’s portrayal of the state of postmodern reality,postmodern masculinity and the role of authority figures such as that of the father and that of Godin his novel Fight Club. Discomforted and frustrated, the unnamed narrator is a fine example ofthe postmodern man: he struggles with the consumer-driven goals of society, the diminishedcondition of manhood in a Hyperreal world and the emptiness such world makes him feel. By analyzing works from the perspective of gender studies and psychology, this projectintends to explore and review concepts such as social constructionism of gender, fatherhood,simulation, and Hyperreality in order to discuss broader topics such as violence and self-destruction as means to reassert masculinity and as a discourse to protest against postmodernsociety.Key concepts: Hyperreality, simulation, masculinity, self-destruction, discourse of protest
  6. 6. 3 Introduction In a world where male role models are dictated by advertisement and mass media,discomfort and frustration among men begin to set in. An example of this kind of man is theunnamed narrator of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, who finds a way to reject the spoon-fedapproach to contemporary living. In the first chapter, titled “Everything is a copy of a copy: Simulation in Fight Club”, adefinition of the concepts of Hyperreality proposed by Jean Baudrillard as a real without originand simulation as a vehicle to alter reality is provided. Baudrillard’s understanding of God as amere simulacrum of His own is also defined in this chapter as it will be useful to the analysis ofthe main characters attempts to transform their own life. The second chapter, titled “You have tofight: Constructing male gender and a discourse of protest”, explores social constructionism ofgender and Fight Club as a vehicle that helps in such process. The discussion encompasses thefields of gender studies and psychology by reading the novel’s manifestations of masculinity inthe light of critics and theorists such as Judith Butler and R. W. Connell. This chapter alsoincorporates Nigel Edley’s discourse-oriented approach on manhood as an aid to the discussionof violence and self-destruction and the role of these practices in the configuration of thenarrator’s identity. The third and final chapter “A father to complete ourselves: The question offatherhood in Fight Club”, applies Anthony Clare’s discussion on the role of male parents in thelife of the postmodern man, focusing on the experiences of the narrator portrayed in the novel.
  7. 7. 4 Theoretical framework This framework is intended to provide an overview of the theories to be revised in theexamination and analysis of Chuck Palahniuk’s portrayal of the state of masculinity, theconfiguration of authority figures and the setting and kind of reality in which events in his novelFight Club take place. In order to do so, research and analysis on different academic fields will becarried out: Theories ranging from gender studies to psychology will be of help in thedevelopment of the discussion of concepts such as social constructionism, masculinity, violence,self-destruction, Hyperreality, and fatherhood. In regards to gender studies, the concept of masculinity will be defined in an attempt tobetter understand its relevance to literary studies. Similarly useful will be psychologicalapproaches when examining the masculine identity crisis experienced by the narrator of thenovel. Likewise, issues such as the significance of the creation of an underground fighting clubon the reassertion of postmodern masculinity and the rejection of the role of men as dictated bythe postmodern world will be analyzed. First of all, ideas proposed by Jean Baudrillard about Hyperreality as a real without origin,simulation as a vehicle to alter reality, and God as a mere simulacrum of His own will be usefulwhen analyzing the narrator’s attempts to transform his own life. Many of the events within thenovel taking place in a dream-like artificial state of consciousness, at one point the narrator statesthat “with insomnia, nothing is real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a
  8. 8. 5copy” (Palahniuk, 21) In other words, the novel, the literary text (as well as the movie) would bethe embodiment of a postmodern reality whose boundaries with fantasy become blurry.Baudrillard’s contention that to simulate is "to feign to have what one hasnt" (2) will serve asground for discussion of the narrator’s attitude towards life when attempting to cure his insomniaby attending to support groups. Another instance of simulation may well be found in the name ofthe street (Paper Street) where the narrator’s alter-ego supposedly lives: “Paper street” refers to astreet that is depicted on a map but does not actually exist. Tyler Durden is the work of theunconscious that the narrator has produced. In other words, Tyler is the simulation; the narrator,the simulator. Tyler represents the narrator’s unconscious. Tylers work, as a projectionist, abanquet waiter, a soap distributor and all his work with and around Fight Club is performed andproduced in the real by the real (the narrator). So despite he believes that Tyler is doing all thework and is therefore real, it is, as a matter of fact, the narrator’s unconscious being produced inthe real by the narrator. Baudrillard’s claim that simulation "threatens the difference betweentrue and false, between real and imaginary” (2) will be of help as well to analyze Palahniuk’scharacterization of Tyler Durden and his existence being only in the narrator’s mind. From the perspective of gender studies, Judith Butler’s thoughts on sex and gender asbeing socially and culturally constructed through the reiteration of stylized acts in time will bediscussed. According to Butler, “gender requires a performance that is repeated” (140) Shefurther argues that if gender does not exist, but is rather performed, it is up to individuals toperform individual gender roles that fit their lives more appropriately. By doing so, she rejectsthe fact that gender arises from biology. In Fight Club, the narrator is looking for ways to recoverhis sense of manhood that has been lost to a consumerist society. One of these ways is throughviolence, a primitive form of masculinity that has been present in humanity from early years.
  9. 9. 6 Similarly pertinent to the analysis of Palahniuk’s novel are R. W. Connell’s ideas on themasculinity, especially his proposal of the existence of more than one kind of manhood. One ofthese categories is hegemonic masculinity, regarded as the norm at a certain time and place. InFight Club, an example of such category would be the tendency to purchase and accumulatematerial goods as a way to channel one’s frustration and to fill the emptiness of life, anexperience that is depicted in the characterization of the narrator of Fight Club. In addition to thatcategory, Connell claims that there are also subordinate masculinities, which does not onlyinclude within itself homosexual masculinity but also any other large group of men whosemembers are systematically excluded from political, social and cultural contexts. In this respect,the narrator in Chapter 6 refers to participants of Fight Club as being part of a “generation of menraised by women” (Palahniuk, 50). Such allusion may well fit the description of a rejected groupof men, which is, in this case, a large group of postmodern individuals who have grown withoutan authority figure (God and/or father) in their lives. In addition, Nigel Edley’s discourse-oriented approach on manhood will be employed for the discussion of violence and self-destruction as a discourse of protest against the postmodern society and its consumer-drivengoals. Throughout the novel, several allusions to authority figures (God and father) are made. Inthis regard, psychiatrist Anthony Clare’s thoughts on masculinity as well as his ideas onfatherhood are examined, taking into consideration the narrator’s experiences that are depicted inthe novel. Clare, for example, poses the question of the usefulness of the father figure in today’ssociety. “If men still have a role as fathers”, he demands, “then it is time they explained what itis. And it is time they fulfilled this role.” (222) He further asks, “What is it that fathers do? Whatis it that fathers are? What do they bring to society that society cannot do without?” Without a
  10. 10. 7male role-model provided by a father figure, the narrator has been accepting what postmodernculture, mass media and advertising has been telling him about the role of men in society (to havea good job with a good salary, to own the finest car, the finest house, the finest technologicaldevice and the like) and such lifestyle eventually overwhelms him. Such questioning by Claremight well find answers in the realization that the narrator (a postmodern man who resents theabsence of a father in his life) and his alter-ego Tyler Durden (a kind of surrogate father) are thesame person, thus rendering the role of an authority figure useless or, at least, subject to bequestioned.
  11. 11. 8 Chapter I: Everything is a copy of a copy: Simulation in Fight Club Before addressing issues such as the condition of masculinity in the postmodern worldand the importance of authority figures such as that of the father and that of God in theconfiguration of postmodern manhood, it seems pertinent to describe the context in which ChuckPalahniuk’s Fight Club is set. In his essay “The Precession of Simulacra”, Jean Baudrillard provides significantelements for the discussion and the revision of the conditions of postmodern culture and societyas they are depicted in Fight Club. As a starting point, he takes Jorge Luis Borges’ fable OnExactitude in Science, in which “the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed thatit ends up covering the territory exactly”, as an example of what once was “the most beautifulallegory of simulation”. When the Empire falls, the only thing that is left is the map. However,Baudrillard contends that “[t]oday abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirroror the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance” butit is “a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal” (2). It is the real, not the map, he argues, whosevestiges remains until today. "The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It isnevertheless the map that precedes the territory—precession of simulacra—that engenders theterritory" (2). He further develops that “[i]t is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication,nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real” and now thedevelopment of every real process is by means of its “operational double, a programmaticmetastable, perfectly descriptive machine that offers all the signs of the real.” (3). Such machineor machinery may well be the kind of society depicted in Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club:
  12. 12. 9the unnamed narrator’s (and also the main character) experiences take place in a world whereeverything seems to be handled on a plate, provided that you have the job and thus the money toafford it: from furniture to food, every single basic human need seem to be covered in such a waythat an individual needs not move from his desk to get what he needs; there is no urge to get thepaper at the newsstand: you can read it online; there is no urge to cook: you can order fast foodfor delivery; there is no urge for sex: you can watch pornography and so on and so forth. Thus,the narrator is a fine example of a postmodern man who has been deprived of all his drives by aconsumerist society that has taken all his agency away, who now finds his life devoid of meaningor direction and whose role in society is passive. As the telling of the story progresses, we learnabout the miserable, lonely life that he leads and we eventually get to sympathize with him: heworks as a recall specialist for the automobile industry and his duty is to survey nationwide caraccidents involving his company’s car so that the firm is able to determine if it is worthwhile topay for the damage caused by their cars; it is as if human lives are set a price, a job morallyquestionable and undoubtedly depressing that even makes him wish he was dead: “Every takeoffand landing, when the plane banked too much to one side, I prayed for a crash” (19). Baudrillard’s idea of hyperreal (“a real without origin or reality”) has a resonance in thenarrator’s statement that “(…) Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy” (21) Postmodern cultureis, according to Baudrillard, a chain of substitutes for a non-existent reality; many of the eventswithin the novel take place in a dream-like artificial state of consciousness which serves as anembodiment of the postmodern reality: a reality whose boundaries with fantasy have beenblurred. In fact, as a result of the stress of his job as well as the jet lag induced by constantbusiness trips, the narrator develops insomnia. In seeking treatment, he goes to a doctor hoping
  13. 13. 10for a pharmaceutical solution to his problems. He, instead, suggests that the narrator attendsupport groups for people struggling with terminal diseases to see other people suffering, in anattempt to find out what is keeping him from falling asleep and focus on that, an advice thenarrator follows. The first instance of simulation can be observed at this point: the narratorattends meetings for people who are struggling or have been struggling terrible life-threatening orlife-altering diseases, despite the fact that he is physically healthy. With the hope that he will feelsome kind of engagement to society, that is meaningful connections with other people, he endsup becoming addicted to these meetings and finding comfort with the support group for victimsof testicular cancer. The members of this group prove to be the only individuals to whom thenarrator relates. In fact, he finds a way to release his suffering by crying for the very first timeafter a man named Bob, a former body builder who lost his testicles to cancer caused by abuse ofsteroids, embraces him. Later that night, the narrator manages to fall asleep. (“And I slept. Babiesdont sleep this well” [22]). Thus, the narrator has been able to find relief and things in his lifehave been back to normal by, following Baudrillard’s premise, substituting signs of the real forthe real. The narrator’s statement in the very same page illustrates that he is living another kind ofreality: “This is better than real life”. By “this”, he is referring to the support groups, which havecome to constitute the simulated reality he has been living in, a world of his own that provideshim with a shelter from the postmodern consumerist culture he has been wishing to escape from. The gesture of visiting support groups exemplifies what Baudrillard in the section “TheDivine Irreference of Images” defines as simulation: “[…] to feign to have what one doesn’thave” (3), as opposed to dissimulation, which is “to pretend not to have what one has” (3). Hefurther develops this idea by quoting Littré who states that "Whoever fakes an illness can simplystay in bed and make everyone believe he is ill. [But] Whoever simulates an illness produces in
  14. 14. 11himself some of the symptoms." Interestingly enough, it can be argued that it is not the narratorhimself the one who has produced the symptoms of the life-altering condition that he feigns to beailed with and that actually affects members of the support group for victims of testicular cancer.Instead, the narrator’s emasculation has been caused by a postmodern society that has taken hisagency away and is best seen as a metaphorical removal of his sexual organs. Thus, some of thesymptoms of the illness or condition in question –in this case, testicular cancer- are somewhatproduced in the narrator, although not by he himself. The kind of society in which he has livedhas taken his agency away by providing men with few or no opportunities whatsoever so thatthey can do things for themselves. Having the courage –or, to use the rather sharp metaphor,having the testicles– is not really necessary because no much effort has to be made in order to getthings done in the world depicted in Fight Club. Nevertheless, such symptoms is what enableshim to be placed in as equal position as the rest of the members of the group: they share the samesigns –or in this case, consequences- of the disease, only with the exception that the narrator’scastration is metaphorical rather than literal. According to Baudrillard, pretending ordissimulating leaves “reality intact”, whereas simulation replaces reality by altering it, somethingthe narrator does by faking he is suffering from the same conditions that affect other members ofthe group. In fact, he acknowledges that he disguises his real identity when introducing himself tosupport groups (”I never give my real name at support groups” [22]). Only after he simulateswhat he is not and what he does not have (that is, by entering the world of the terminally ill andby doing so with an identity that is not his own) is he able to find relief. By being embraced, thatis, by establishing meaningful contact with somebody else, the narrator is able to cry and feelaccepted, even if it is not by society as a whole: “Walking home after a support group, I felt morealive than Id ever felt” (22)
  15. 15. 12 However, such relief does not last long due to the intrusion of Marla Singer, also feigningto be ill, at the same support groups meetings. In seeing her fakery reflect back on him, thenarrator makes up his mind about confronting her and threatening to expose her. The narrator-unlike Singer- passes judgment on her behavior, neglecting the fact that it is the same as his; thetwo of them seek the same thing in the meetings; that is, meaningful human contact. However,the intrusion of Singer into the meetings, by feigning to have the same diseases the othermembers of the groups, ends up ruining the narrator’s goal at the meetings: to cry freely to beable to fall sleep; her presence makes him feel inhibited and insomnia reappears: “Since thesecond night I saw her, I can’t sleep” (23) Despite having convinced Marla Singer to attend meetings separately so as to avoid eachother, the narrator seems to have quitted visiting support groups and while on vacation, in anattempt to find a way out of the problems in his life, he meets Tyler Durden, the man with whomhe eventually creates Fight Club. The character of Tyler Durden may well be the embodiment ofwhat Baudrillard refers to as simulation, which is something that "threatens the differencebetween true and false, between real and imaginary” (3). Baudrillard claims that the simulator–in this case, the narrator- cannot be treated as being either ill or not ill because any symptom canbe “produced” and can no longer be taken as a fact of nature. In fact, he argues that “every illnesscan be considered as simulatable and simulated” (3) Medicine “loses its meaning”, he furtherdevelops, because its ability is to treat “real” illnesses according to objective causes.Disregarding the idea that simulation should “be at the gates of the unconscious”, Baudrillardposes the question of why the “work” of the unconscious could not be “produced” in the sameway as any old symptom of classical medicine. He is quick to provide an answer himself:“dreams already are”. In this regard, we may find the embodiment of simulation in the character
  16. 16. 13of Tyler Durden because he exists only as a result of the work of the narrator’s mind while he isunable to sleep. Tyler Durden, the character with whom the narrator creates Fight Club, and thenameless narrator are the same person: Durden is the persona the narrator adopts when beingawake, that being the most likely reason why Palahniuk does not give the narrator a name.Durden is the simulation; the narrator, the simulator. The former’s work, as a projectionist, abanquet server, a soap distributor and all his work with and around Fight Club is performed andproduced in the real by the real, in this case, the narrator. In fact, towards the final chapters of thenovel, specifically in chapter 22, the narrator begins to question his insomnia and wonderswhether he has been sleeping or not. Standing at the edge of his bed, Tyler Durden explains thatwhile the narrator thinks he is sleeping, he becomes Tyler: "Every time you fall asleep," Tylersays, "I run off and do something wild, something crazy, something completely out of my mind.”(163) Such discovery allows the narrator to realize he has been hallucinating; he has createdanother self and does not have insomnia. Thus despite he believes that Tyler is doing all the workand he is therefore real, it is the narrator’s unconscious that is being acted out into the real by thenarrator. "One implies a presence, the other an absence", (3) Baudrillard states. For the narrator,he is real because he looks and acts real, but to other characters, the narrator and Tyler are thesame person. Another indication of Tyler Durden’s incarnation of simulation is the name of thestreet where he supposedly lives: Paper Street. A paper street refers to a street that does notactually exist but it is nonetheless depicted on a map. Metaphorically speaking, Tyler Durdenwould be the street that only exists in the narrator’s mind, in this case represented by the map. In recalling how he meets Durden at the beach while on vacation, the narrator draws tothe following conclusion: “Maybe I never really woke up on that beach. (…) / When I fall asleep,
  17. 17. 14I dont really sleep.” (173) Such acknowledgement on the narrator’s part –that he never actuallyslept– is followed by a fearful confession: “Tyler Durden is a separate personality Ive created,and now hes threatening to take over my real life.” (173) The reason for such creation stems from the narrator’s discomfort at life as a result of theconsumerist lifestyle of the postmodern society. Unmotivated by his everyday life, the narratorcreates another self that could embody everything he cannot: I love everything about Tyler Durden, his courage and his smarts. His nerve. Tyler is funny and charming and forceful and independent, and men look up to him and expect him to change their world. Tyler is capable and free, and I am not. I’m not Tyler Durden. “But you are, Tyler,” Marla says. Tyler and I share the same body, and until now, I didn’t know it (175) Early signals of this split personality can be found throughout the novel in sentences suchas “I know this because Tyler knows this” (Palahniuk, 12) and is now reaffirmed by the statement“Everyone in fight club and Project Mayhem knew me as Tyler Durden” (Palahniuk, 12). In otherwords, he is viewed as the creator of both organizations to which he comes to represent a sort ofGod-like figure.
  18. 18. 15 In light of this, I would like to discuss Baudrillard’s revision of the Iconoclasts’ ideasabout God, which states that they foresaw that simulacra would have the faculty to efface Godfrom the conscience of man and that there was an annihilating truth to be discovered: “(…) deepdown God never existed, (…) only the simulacrum ever existed, (…) God himself was neveranything but his own simulacrum” (Baudrillard, 4). Spontaneously created after Tyler asks thenarrator to “hit him as hard as he can”, Fight Club gives birth to an even more violent and radicalorganization, Project Mayhem, that is intended to fight the postmodern consumerist society.Dissatisfied at the fights at the club, the narrator goes back to the support groups only to find Bobalone, who tells him that the club has disbanded and that he has found a new group (ProjectMayhem). Throughout the novel, signs that allow us to think that he is a Creator, with capitalletter, a sort of God/Jesus-like figure can be found. For example, Fight Club and also ProjectMayhem have their rules, the equivalent to the Ten Commandments. In the same sense, membersof the club may well be viewed as his apostles to whom he has directed his teachings (the rules ofFight Club and Project Mayhem). Towards the end of chapter 5, after his condominium iscompletely destroyed -the only belongings are inside his suitcase- and all of his “clever” furniturehe has spent so much money and time amassing is now gone, the narrator decides to call TylerDurden in the hope that he would set him free from the materialistic and hollow life he has beenleading so far: "Oh Tyler, please deliver me / Deliver me from Swedish furniture / Deliver mefrom clever art” (46) With the idea of Tyler Durden as a God-like figure, it seems inevitably not to think of thelanguage the narrator is here employing as religious. The “evil” part from the Our Father prayeris here replaced by elements that represent evil to the narrator in the postmodern world (namely,furniture and material goods in general). The line "the phone rang and Tyler answered" (46) is
  19. 19. 16also indicative of Tyler’s status as a savior figure, especially the verb at the end of the sentence(to answer) which is the same verb people employ to say God has heard his prayers. In chapter 8,Durden makes the narrator promise not to talk to Marla Singer about him (“Dont ever talk to herabout me. Dont talk about me behind my back. Do you promise?” [72]). Unable to keep thepromise, the narrator betrays Durden, and this provides another example of the God/Jesus-likefigure of who has been betrayed by Judas. Rejected from the time of their birth by their own fathers, the narrator and Durden seethem as figures who might have never really wanted them in the first place. (It seems worthwhileto clarify at this point that the issue of fatherhood, although will be discussed in the ensuing lines,will be addressed in a greater extent in another chapter.) In order to overcome this internal strife,Durden proposes getting to the core of yourself to find out who you really are and in order to startbuilding yourself back up from there: "Maybe self-improvement isnt the answer / Tyler neverknew his father / Maybe self-destruction is the answer." (49) Unable to recall memories of his father during his childhood (“I knew my dad for aboutsix years, but I dont remember anything” [50]), the narrator progressively comes to theconclusion that “[m]aybe we didnt need a father to complete ourselves” (54). At one point, thenarrator recalls a time when he asks Tyler what he has been fighting and Tyler says his father, afigure whose role is several times discussed by Chuck Palahniuk through the narration anddialogues of the characters of the novel. In chapter 18, a mechanic, who is a member of ProjectMayhem makes the narrator ponders on this issue: “If youre male and youre Christian and livingin America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your fatherbails out or dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?” (141)
  20. 20. 17 This statement summarizes Durden’s view of God not as benevolent or reliable, butindifferent to the human condition. In Durden’s interpretation, God becomes an obstacle toprogress as human beings cannot truly move forward as long as they feel they need the blessingsof an indifferent creator. According to Baudrillard, in the era of simulacra and of simulation,“there is no longer a God to recognize his own.” (5) In this regard, the narrator, resenting theabsence of his father in life, has unconsciously created a figure (Durden) out of the necessity tohave an authority and messianic figure capable of saving him from the life that he leads: Tylerfunctions both as a father and as God as both are the same person, thus the narrator becomes hisown God. Towards the end of the novel, we learn that the narrator is institutionalized and refers tohis psychologist as God, with whom he disagrees during his sessions. Statements such as “God’sgot all this wrong” and “You can’t teach God anything” (207) are examples of this conflict. Atthe hospital, patients who are still hurt or bruised, continue to recognize him as Tyler Durden;that is, as the creator of Fight Club and Project Mayhem. “Everything’s going according to theplan” (208), an individual with a broken nose tells him. “We miss you Mr. Durden” says another.Conceived of as a creator, Tyler Durden a.k.a. the narrator is the embodiment of the Iconoclast’sidea revised by Baudrillard that God never existed, that only the simulacrum ever existed and thatGod himself was never anything but his own simulacrum. In a world where “everything is a copyof a copy”, Durden is a copy of God.
  21. 21. 18 Chapter II: You have to fight: Constructing male gender and a discourse of protest The notion of gender as rooted in biology and attributed to the natural work of hormoneshas been contested by a considerable amount of theory that has focused on the social dimensionsinvolved in the production of gender. The idea of gender as a social construction is today
  22. 22. 19installed in debates regarding sexual and gender identity but also feminism and human rightstheory. The post-structuralist philosopher Judith Butler will understand gender as a result ofsocial reiteration of codes of performances that define the feminine and masculine over time.This is a notion of gender that distances itself from a biological explanation and focuses on thelanguage on masculinity and femininity and will therefore contribute to the examination ofChuck Palahniuk’s depiction of male gender in his novel Fight Club. Similarly pertinent for thediscussion will be both the revision of the ideas proposed by sociologist R. W. Connell in regardsto the existence of more than one kind of masculinity, thus widening the scope of the topic aswell as the examination of the concepts elaborated by Nigel Edley and his discourse-orientedanalysis of masculinity. In her book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity Judith Butlerprovides interesting elements for the discussion about gender. According to her, gender “requiresa performance that is repeated.” (140) Such reiteration is at the same time both “a reenactmentand reexperiencing of a set of meanings already socially established”. Instead of conceiving ofgender as a “stable identity”, Butler develops the idea that gender, far from being “a locus ofagency from which various acts follow” (140) is an identity constituted in time, in an exteriorspace, by means of “stylized repetition of acts”. In Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk seems to present the argument that the condition ofmanhood is not what it used to be. Once a hunter that had to risk his life for shelter and food, thepostmodern man needs not to go out and make much effort to have their basic needs satisfied.Thus, the social establishment of the set of meanings that Butler refers to can be noticed in the
  23. 23. 20postmodern men’s consumerism depicted in the novel; unknowingly, men now find themselvesshopping because the ownership of material goods, namely the finest car and/or the finesttechnological device or, in the case of the narrator of the novel, furniture, has become theparameter by which masculinity is measured: 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 years youre satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least youve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then youre trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you. (44) This quote from chapter 5 illustrates Butler’s point about the admissibility of the act thatcomposes gender: it is “the mundane and ritualized form of their legitimation” (140). Theacceptability of this new form of masculinity, to which not even the narrator is able to escape, hasbeen achieved because no other form of constructing gender has been able to challenge it. Withtime, it became the accepted pattern of what it means to be a man as a result of its permanence intime. On another note, the excerpt also serves to make evident that the narrator, in order tomaintain the illusion of happiness and wholeness in which he lives, must work a job he despises.With the money necessary to continue buying the goods he think he needs, eventually he findshimself locked in a sort of prison made up of material goods.
  24. 24. 21 Gender is, however, always subject to mutation. According to Butler, the possibilities ofsuch transformation are to be found in “the arbitrary relation between the [repeated] acts [thatconstitute gender], in the possibility of a failure to repeat, a de-formity or a parodic repetition.”(141) In post-modernity, as depicted in Fight Club, we see that men have become individualswith consumerist-driven goals. This new conceptualization of male gender represents a disruptionof what, until that point, was said to be constitutive of what it means to be a man. The statement "The people I know who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography,now they sit in the bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalogue. (43)” provides elements thatindicate a change in the state of affairs. The postmodern man’s life has been so absorbed by thematerialism of the time that he has even began to replace traditional acts, even from the mostintimate sphere of an individual’s life. Sexual gratification is now achieved, not with the aid ofpornography as it used to be, but with a furniture catalogue instead. Pornographic material doesnot make for a satisfying and satisfactory source of pleasure; human beings do not only enjoyIKEA items as pieces of furniture (the purpose of their manufacturing), but also as objects ofdesire. The continuous purchasing of material goods, as portrayed in Fight Club, would be thepostmodern enactment of the performance of a cultural act that Butler argues as constitutive ofgender. Such constitution of gender was a disruption of what, at a given moment in history, wasunderstood as masculinity; however, it becomes so only because of the permanence in time ofthis kind of practices and cultural acts. In this case, the obsession with buying things has beenembraced by the postmodern men and has been incorporated into their everyday lives. They havecome to accept the tendency to purchase material goods as the pattern of (cultural) acts that needsto be followed in order to construct male gender in the postmodern world. This acceptance stems
  25. 25. 22from the comfort implied in such a spoon-fed approach to life. As Butler argues, the effect ofgender must be understood “as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements and stylesof various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self” (140). Examples of the stylesButler refers to can be noticed in the following lines from the novel: “A lot of young people tryto impress the world and buy too many things,” (45), “A lot of young people don’t know whatthey really want.”(46), “Young people, they think they want the whole world.” (46) and “If youdon’t know what you want (…) you end up with a lot you don’t” (46). All expressed by the doorman of the building where the narrator used to live before itexplodes, these statements reflect the wandering state of the postmodern society. Things arebought because one of the main goals in the postmodern world is to impress others, not for theirown sake or delight and, in light of this, the narrator is a fine example of people that “end up witha lot you don’t” (namely, furniture, sofa, set of dishes, bed, drapes, rug). Palahniuk’s choice ofthe doorman as the character that expresses these statements might not be coincidental. Adoorman has a privileged position and overview of a building; from his spot, he has the greatestview of what happens there on a daily basis –probably with the aid of a closed-circuit televisionsystem– and thus he has an external, wider and objective view of peoples’ behavior and lifestyle. Apart from making him unhappy and unfulfilled, such lifestyle ends up causing thenarrator insomnia. In addition to despising his job, he feels isolated by and detached from societyand its consumerist-oriented goals. As a consequence, the unnamed narrator looks for ways toescape from the reality he is living in and that includes the sense of masculinity that he does notfeel comforted with. In seeking treatment for his insomnia, the narrator follows his doctor’sadvice to attend support group meetings for the terminally ill in order. Eventually the narrator
  26. 26. 23finds comfort with the victims of testicular cancer, after a former bodybuilder named Bobembraces him: (…) [T]hen Bob was closing in around me with his arms, and his head was folding down to cover me. Then I was lost inside oblivion, dark and silent and complete, and when I finally stepped away from his soft chest, the front of Bob’s shirt was a wet mask of how I looked crying. That was two years ago, at my first night with Remaining Men Together. At almost every meeting since then, Big Bob has made me cry. I never went back to the doctor. (22) Such physical contact between the two has turned out to be a cure for the narrator’sinsomnia as it has allowed him to release his suffering by crying. To his chagrin, he is unable tocontinue attending meetings due to the appearance of a woman by the name of Marla Singer, whonot only feigns to be ailed with life-altering diseases just as the narrator does (the situationborders on absurdity when she shows up at a Remaining Men Together meeting) but is alsoaware of the narrator’s fakery. Her knowledge of the situation and her threat to expose him (“Youtell on me and I’ll tell on you” [38]) end up inhibiting his crying and insomnia, in turn,reappears. In looking for other ways to escape his troublesome reality after such failure, thenarrator meets Tyler Durden, his alter-ego, with whom he creates an underground fighting club.As time passes, the club starts gaining popularity among men as it provides –not only the
  27. 27. 24narrator, but also other men– with the opportunity to free themselves from the plight of their livesby beating each other (“[…] every week you go [to the basement of the bar where fights takeplace] and there’s more guys there.” [50]) The narrator seems to have found the cure for his insomnia in a club that implies twoforms of (male) gender construction as the repetition of acts in time: the notion of a club as aspace (both in a temporal and in a physical sense) for men’s reunion is an example of, whatButler states, a set of meanings socially established. Just as there are some devoted to hobbies,sports, social activities, religion, politics, this is an association of men whose goal is to putthemselves out of the misery of their lives by inflicting blows to other men. Violence, conceivedof as the intentional use of physical force, has been believed to be a demonstration ofmasculinity; a primitive form that has been present in humanity from early years. InMasculinities, R. W. Connell states that all societies have cultural accounts of gender, but not allhave the concept “masculinity”. The modern assumption is that ones behavior is the result of thetype of person one is; in light of this, an unmasculine persons behavior is different: anunmasculine individual is said to be peaceable rather than violent; he is said to be conciliatory,not dominating, and hardly able to kick a football, etc.) (67) Such conception, according toConnell, represents the presupposition of a belief in individual difference and personal agency. Inthat sense, it is built on the conception of individuality that developed in early-modern Europe asa result of the growth of colonial empires and capitalist economic relations. For Connell, theconcept of masculinity is “inherently relational” (68) because “masculinity” does not exist unlessin contrast with “femininity”. He argues that a culture which does not treat women and men as“bearers of polarized character types, at least in principle, does not have a concept of masculinityin the sense of modern European/American culture”. (68) He relies on the historical research
  28. 28. 25conducted on the field that suggested that this was true of European culture itself before theeighteenth century.. Women, Connell notes, “were certainly regarded as different from men, butdifferent in the sense of being incomplete or inferior examples of the same character (forinstance, having less of the faculty of reason). According to Connell, our conceptualization ofmasculinity seems to be a recent historical product that is a few hundred years old at the most. Instead of attempting to define masculinity as an object (a natural character type, abehavioral average, a norm), Connell favors the idea of focusing on “the processes andrelationships through which men and women conduct gendered lives”. “Masculinity (…) issimultaneously a place in gender relations, the practices through which men and women engagethat place in gender, and the effects of these practices in bodily experience, personality andculture. (71) In section “Gender as a Structure of Social Practice”, Connell defines gender as “away in which social practice is ordered” instead of conceiving of it as an objective and essentialcategory; it is only possible to conceived masculinity in relation to other categories such asfemininity. Due to a “growing recognition of the interplay between gender, race and class”, Connellhas noticed that “it has become common to recognize multiple masculinities. (76) Therecognition of the existence of more than one kind of masculinity is “only a first step”.Disregarding the idea that it is a fixed character type, Connell refers to “hegemonic masculinity”as the kind of masculinity that “occupies the hegemonic position in a given pattern of genderrelations, a position always contestable” (76) In other words, the type of masculinity that, at thepresent time and place, is regarded as the norm. According to Connell, hegemonic masculinitycan be defined as “the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently acceptedanswer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy” (77) In Fight Club, a hegemonic kind of
  29. 29. 26masculinity is embodied in men’s tendency towards consumerism. The male performance of suchcultural acts has resulted in a type of masculinity that is now the norm. Society has embraced thepostmodern men’s tendency to purchase and amass material goods as a common or typical thingfor them, as if a feature of masculinity. Such men’s tendency stems from the fact thatconsumerism provides the easiest way to get things and to have their needs satisfied in thepostmodern world. In light of this, Tyler Durden’s emerges as a figure whose goal is to counterthe effects of this ruling kind of masculinity by getting rid of everything from desires, thoughts,wants to material possessions: "Its only after youve lost everything," Tyler says, "that yourefree to do anything." (70) Despite he himself succumbed to such a lifestyle, the narrator of the novel has come torealize that his life is shallow and the consumerist goals of society have rendered him empty. Insuch a state of discomfort, the narrator is no longer part of what Connell calls hegemonicmasculinity; he belongs to a subordinated type of masculinity. According to Connell, “oppressionpositions homosexual masculinities at the bottom of a gender hierarchy among men” (79) hestates that gayness is “(…) the repository of whatever is symbolically expelled from hegemonicmasculinity, the items ranging from fastidious taste in home decoration to receptive analpleasure.” However, homosexual masculinity is “not the only subordinated masculinity” (79).Some heterosexual men and boys too are expelled from the circle of legitimacy, Connell furtherargues. In Fight Club, the narrator fits this description. In chapter 6, while providing a portrayalof the fight club that he and his alter-ego Tyler Durden have created, the narrator acknowledgesthat postmodern men belong to a different kind of generation, when compared with previousones: “What you see at fight club is a generation of men raised by women” (50)
  30. 30. 27 Such allusion may well fit the picture of a rejected group of men, which is, in this case, alarge group of postmodern individuals who have grown without an authority figure and/or a malerole-model to follow. The issue of the importance of a father figure in a man’s life will bediscussed in next chapter. Fight Club functions “five hours from two until seven on Sunday morning” (52); in otherwords, it takes place in an underground fashion: at night, the counterpart of day. Its moment isnot daylight because daylight belongs to those who rule (hegemonic masculinity). The kind ofmasculinity that is seen in Fight Club, despite its growing popularity among postmodern men, isthe subordinated one. Despite its evolution into a more extreme and violent organization intendedto perpetrate chaos in society (Project Mayhem), Fight club has been created out of the necessityto find a place, to gain a sense of belonging, to fight the hegemony of the consumerist andfeminized society in which they are living in by means of a traditional way of assertingmasculinity: violence. There are a number of activities that are viewed as being typical of men within ourculture. Nigel Edley, in Analyzing masculinity, provides watching soccer, beer-drinking andtrying to get away from the traffic lights faster than the cars in the next lane as examples of what,according to him, are “practices and characteristics which we conventionally associate with men”(191). Nevertheless, it does not mean that all men will perform these activities or that theyconstitute a domain exclusively for men; as a matter of fact, it is very common to see women dothem, he claims. Instead, they are conceived of, according to Edley, as “normative forms ofbehavior”, similar to what Connell calls “hegemonic masculinity”. Edley argues that activitiessuch as beer drinking or brawling have been seen in the past as “symptoms of masculinity andthe by-products of something that is both prior to and more fundamental than the activities
  31. 31. 28themselves.” (191). He sustains that many people today remain convinced that gender is in someway rooted in biology. As a result, that men race off from the traffic lights, for example, is oftenattributed to an aggressive and competitive nature rooted at the level of genes or hormones.Edley, however, emphasizes the importance of relationships within society in the creation ofgender: it is “neither something into which we are born nor something we eventually become”(192). Instead, he favors the idea that gender is something that is ‘done’ or accomplished in thecourse of social interaction. As a discursive psychologist, Edley neglects the traditionalpsychological view that “men’s tinkering with cars and their repeated conversations about beerand football” are footprints of an animal that must be tracked. Instead, he proposes that suchwords and deeds “are the beast itself”. Instead of seeing masculinity as permanent or fixed,Edley’s discursive psychological approach postulates that it is “constantly remade on a moment-to-moment basis” (193) and thus it provides a radical destabilizing of the assumption that genderis something that is natural, inevitable or God-given. Edley emphasizes that “transforming thestatus quo becomes understood as a matter of challenging and changing discourses”. The narratorof the novel transforms the predominant discourse of materialism as a parameter to measuremasculinity (the hegemonic kind in Connell’s terminology) by resorting to a traditional form ofreassertion of manhood: violence. The narrator’s way to transform discourse is through fights atthe club. In chapter 21, as he continues to go around the country for his job, he sees men withbruises, cuts and stitches: “YOU WAKE UP at Sky Harbor International. Set your watch back two hours.
  32. 32. 29 The shuttle takes me to downtown Phoenix and every bar I go into there are guys with stitches around the rim of an eye socket where a good slam packed their face meat against its sharp edge. There are guys with sideways noses, and these guys at the bar see me with the puckered hole in my cheek and were an instant family.”(157) Edley provides the example of a man protesting in the street with a sign that reads “I am aman” to illustrate that “identities are not secured merely by proclamation” (194) and that theaccomplishment of identities is far from a mere exercise and have to be “negotiated or won”,being the statement “I am a man” part of such negotiation. Edley further develops that“establishing one’s identity as a man is a messy and complicated co-production [and] it isfashioned through social interaction, subject to negotiation and (…) inextricably bound up withthe exercise of power” (194). In referring to the role of power in the social construction of masculinity, Edley drawsattention to the importance of why men, such as the one from the example, are protesting. Manyblack American men during the 1960s, he recalls, felt “angered by the structural barriers whichprevented them from fulfilling the traditional masculine role (and) resented the fact that theywere denied the kind of work that would allow them to become the major breadwinners andheads of their respective households”. Edley emphasizes the importance of the realization that thedemand to be recognized as a man is not a “purely symbolic issue” and it is not just that menwant to be thought of as such. What men look for is “the social, political and economic privilegesthat are associated with that symbolic status”. In Fight Club, men fight other men out of theirdiscomfort that postmodern society and its consumerist culture produce in them. In the novel, we
  33. 33. 30can see signs of the co-production that Edley describes as a constitutive element of one’s identityin the fighting club. By meeting every night to inflict blows on other men, participants of FightClub are socially interacting with one another and thus collectively constructing a “new” form ofmale identity. The public display of the bruises and the stitches of the members of Fight Clubwould be the equivalent to the man’s sign with the proclamation “I am a man” protesting in astreet during the 1960s. By doing so, they are challenging the predominant discourse of thematerialistic postmodern society –the main source for their frustration, discomfort andnumbness– and, at the same time, they are constructing their own discourse in which injuries areits protesting words. Chapter III: A father to complete ourselves: The role of male parents in the postmodern world In Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk alludes to the issue of fatherhood several times; one ofthe first references being made by the narrator in chapter 6 in regards to the experience of hisalter-ego Tyler Durden: “Maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer. Tyler never knew his father.Maybe self-destruction is the answer.” (49) Focusing on the role of men in todays society of gender equality, Anthony Clare proposesinteresting elements for the discussion of masculinity and fatherhood in his book On men:Masculinity in Crisis. The opening lines of “The Dying Phallus”, the first section of his treatise,are characterized by the author’s acknowledgement of a variety of things about which he claimsto be either ignorant, doubtful and/or skeptical: what makes people happy, whether there is a
  34. 34. 31God, whether good mothers are born or made, what makes people be the ruler and the ruled, andwhether he will see the day when the cure for cancer, schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s is discoveredand so forth and so on. His major concern is, however, with manhood. Although he admits toknowing what it is to be a man, as he ponders on how he learned about the issue of masculinity,he concludes that all the teaching was implied and took place almost as if by osmotic process; infact, he fails to recall either his father, mother, teachers, or classmates say “This is what it meansto be a man, a son, a brother, a lover, a dad” (9). In spite of that, Clare states that he soon foundout about what makes a man; he learned that his work is as important as his own self and,furthermore, that in the capitalist society of our time, a man is not defined by what he is, but bywhat he does. In recalling the concept of the empty nest syndrome, Clare notices how its scopebroadened from affecting females to males: married women about their 40s after having devotedtheir life to their children realized that they had grown up and their husbands spent most of theirtime working and playing golf (11). But now, he notes, a man in their mid-40s who has faithfullydevoted his life to a company is now forced to retirement and, in confusion, finds himself in theposition women used to occupy: it is him who now finds his children are not home and it is hiswife the one who has other occupations. All in all, the justification for male patriarchy, Clareargues –although it has not been overthrown since there are still more men holding job positionsand getting better salaries than women– is at least confusing and must be revised and discussed asa concept. Clare sustains that the time of men’s ruling power, authority, and/or domination hascome to its end (13). He recalls the experience of his father as being a member of a generationthat boasted about their condition of being the breadwinners, the ones earning the money tosupport their wife, family and themselves. Currently, that is no longer necessary because married
  35. 35. 32women benefit from the education they receive and they eventually make their own money (17-18). All these contemporary changes have resulted in “the role of the father being threatened”(18). He believes that factors such as the advances in the field of assisted reproductivetechnology, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, surrogacy and the belief that one singleparent as a caregiver is as good a caregiver as two inevitably lead to posing the question “whereis fatherhood headed?” (18) And he adds some more: Is there anything left from the role of manas breadwinner and protector? Do we need men? Do we need fathers? If so, what kind of a manand what kind of a father do we need? (19) The narrator has vague recollections of his encounters with his father whom he knew fornot so long: Me, I knew my dad for about six years, but I don’t remember anything. My dad, he starts a new family in a new town about every six years. This isn’t so much like a family as it’s like he sets up a franchise. What you see at fight club is a generation of men raised by women. (50) With the knowledge that Durden is a split personality the narrator has created, theformer’s father correspond in fact with the latter’s. Consequently, the implication seems to bethat barely knowing someone, six years in the case of the narrator, is the same as not everknowing that someone, as in the case of Durden. All in all, the absence of a strong father figure inthe life of a child and/or young individual is an issue not only affecting the narrator. According to
  36. 36. 33the last sentence of the aforementioned excerpt, Fight Club is an organization with a growingmembership constituted by individuals belonging to an age group that had female role-models tofollow, instead of male ones. What you see at Fight Club is a group of individuals whose onlymodel for adult male –that of a father– has been absent. Without male role-models to follow,these men have largely accepted the role of men in society as presented by mass media andadvertising, in which the emphasis is put on the sense of completeness you can achieved bypurchasing material goods. This “self-improvement” is rejected by the narrator who has seenemptiness in such a model and does not believe it to be “the answer” to the problem. In recalling how Fight Club was created, the narrator again visits the idea of self-destruction while describing his first encounter with Tyler Durden and how he hits him atDurden’s request: I didn’t want to, but Tyler explained it all, about not wanting to die without any scars, about being tired of watching only professionals fight, and wanting to know more about himself. About self-destruction. At the time, my life just seemed too complete, and maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves. (52) The so-called completeness the narrator refers to is but an illusion of happiness andfulfillment that has only been sustained through consumption –activity he sustains with a job hedespises– of material goods which are nothing but consolation prizes that, instead of giving him a
  37. 37. 34sense of accomplishment, have merely demonstrated his buying power. Thus the narrator toyswith the idea of self-destruction as being the proper way to overcome his internal struggle. Hecontemplates the idea of getting to the core of yourself in order to discover who you really areand thus be able to make a better “you”. Later, the narrator inquires Durden as to what he isfighting at the club and “Tyler said, his father” (53). The narrator then ponders on the importanceof a father in the building of one’s identity and says: “Maybe we didn’t need a father to completeourselves” (54) In fact, the narrator has needed a father to somewhat complete himself: Tyler Durden. Hehas been the Messiah that has saved him from the materialistic life he was leading and theCreator of the club where he has acknowledged to have been reborn (“You aren’t alive anywherelike you’re alive at fight club” [51]). The narrator has in fact expressed that he senses Durden as afather: “Me, Im six years old again, and taking messages back and forth between my estrangedparents. I hated this when I was six. I hate it now.” (66) The estranged parents he refers to are Durden and Marla Singer and the messages that hesays is taking between them have to do mainly with Durden wanting to get rid of Marla. In orderto so, he tells the narrator to tell Marla to go out and buy a can of lye. The narrator’s anger at thesituation stems from his discomfort at being treated as a child. Durden and the narrator being thesame individual, the implication is that he is in fact his own father. He actually needs a father tofeel complete: he needs himself. Further references to the issue of fatherhood are to be found in chapter 18, a point in thenovel where Fight Club has already evolved into the more radical organization called ProjectMayhem, whose target is the economic establishment. Initially a participant, the narrator
  38. 38. 35eventually quits as he becomes uncomfortable with the increasing destruction of the group(particularly after Bob –the same Bob from the support group for victims of testicular cancer– iskilled during one of the sabotage operations). Some time before his departure, Durden phones thenarrator at work to tell him he must get in a car that is waiting outside. There, he meets amechanic that happens to be a member of Project Mayhem. As he drives, the mechanic tells thenarrator: "What you have to understand, is your father was your model for God.” “If youre male and youre Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out and dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?” (140) The novel might be posing as answer that God never existed or that God, as conceived ofin the Judeo-Christian tradition, is not even necessary in the first place. The mechanic seems tobe saying “It is okay if God does not exist because I can make one of my own”. In the firstchapter of this project, I presented the idea that the narrator (most precisely his alter-ego Durden)was a copy of God in a hyperreal world (a messiah that saves the narrator from the hell of thematerialistic life, a God who was the creator of Fight Club, where “there’s hysterical shouting intongues like at church” after which “you feel saved” (51) and who directed his teachings to itsmembers as if they were apostles. If one’s father is one’s model for God, as the mechanic havesaid, then the narrator has been his own model for both. Although he adds that "What you end updoing (…) is you spend your life searching for your father and God" (141), the narrator’s search
  39. 39. 36for his father and God has ceased as he has found both figures in himself. In regards to the role offather and its justification, Anthony Clare states: If men still have a role as fathers, then it is time they explained what it is. And it is time they fulfilled this role. What is it that fathers do? What is it that fathers are? (222-223) A father is someone who, in most cases, has a word of advice for and cares about his sonor daughter, even if he does not live at home with them. Durden embodies this description bysuggesting to the narrator that he get rid of the unnecessary parts of his life in order to findhimself. With his creation Fight Club, Durden also teaches the narrator values and impartsdiscipline as a father would do. All in all, the narrator –or Tyler Durden if you will– ends upfilling the void that his father has left when abandoning him by becoming his own father.
  40. 40. 37 Conclusion Although the narrator intended to overcome his discomfort with life through the creationof an alter ego that served him as a father and a God/Jesus-like figure, he ends up in a mentalinstitution where his inmates see him as Tyler Durden and expect him to resume his work atProject Mayhem to continue elaborating anti-corporate sabotage operations. Even though the narrator’s ability to create or replace a father figure may be interpreted asway of overcoming difficulties and self-empowerment, such efforts prove counterproductive asthe narrator ends up losing his freedom as a result of his work at the destructive Project Mayhem. Out of all the narrator’s creations –Tyler Durden and his by-products Project Mayhem andFight Club– only the latter seems a worthwhile effort to struggle with the weakened state of thepostmodern masculinity: after a night at Fight Club, the narrator and its other members beganfeeling they had been reborn and felt they had regained his sense of manliness. Confined to thelimited physical space of the basement where fights took place, damage, violence and destructionwere employed as tools to build male identity. In contrast, Project Mayhem worked on a larger
  41. 41. 38scale as an anti-corporate organization and ended up with one of its own members being killedduring an operation. The fact that the novel shares the same name as the underground fighting club might notbe coincidental. It might well be an indication that both “Fight Clubs”, Durden’s and Palahniuk’s,are not only their commentaries on the state of affairs of the postmodern society, but they bothmight well be considered as creations of an individual’s mind, which are meant to help regularmen find answers to the question of postmodern masculinity and whose patterns have beendictated by advertising and mass media due to the absence of father figures among thisgeneration of men.
  42. 42. 39 Works CitedBaudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Grazier. Ann Arbor: Universityof Michigan, 1994. PrintButler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge,1990. PrintClare, Anthony. On men: Masculinity in Crisis. Trans. Irene Cifuentes. Madrid: Taurus, 2002.PrintConnell, Robert. Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995. PrintEdley, Nigel. "Analysing Masculinity: Interpretative Repertoires, Ideological Dilemmas andSubject Positions." Discourse as data: a guide for analysis. Ed. Margaret Wetherell, StephanieTaylor and Simeon J. Yates. London: Sage, 2001. 189-228. PrintPalahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996. Print

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