Through the main character’s power struggle and dissociative identity disorder with Tyler Durden we see the reoccurring theme of existentialism as the narrator battles his subconscious and rebels against society. The author impressively uses syntax and a handful of flashbacks to communicate the story’s message.
An existentialist is someone who believes that they can determine their own value and self as free without any idea of it being previously discussed. We have the main character, lets call him Jack, who for the most part has a pretty mundane and stable lifestyle. Jack has a good paying job and a nice apartment filled with nice furniture and brand name items that he believes will give meaning to his life. As he starts develop we see that he lacks individuality and the incentive to do something more than what he’s doing with is life now; he has no drive. At some point Jack even says, “I’d flip through catalogs and wonder ‘What kind of dining set defines me as a person?’” (Fight Club). He tried to fill his apartment, or let’s say the empty void himself, with luxury items that only ended up leaving him more and more apathetic and detached. He hasn’t yet realized that the only thing that can give meaning to his life is the absolute discovery of himself but until then he feels like “I am Jack’s wasted life” (Fight Club). Even though he knows what he’s doing with his life, Jack does nothing to stop it and just continues to cruise and watch it all happen, until he meets Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden is Jack’s wakeup call, whether he asked for it or not. Tyler Durden is a traveling soap salesman who also works as a part time waiter and at the theater. He lives an exciting life filled with guilt-free funny business. Jack meets Tyler on a flight back home from a business trip; this is when he slowly starts to second guess himself. He gets home just to find out that his house was destroyed by an explosion and that everything was destroyed and at this point his path to self discovery is set in motion when he decides to call Tyler up for a drink. When they meet up, Jack is already panicking and throwing a fit over all his expensive stuff that got destroyed and Tyler tries to make him realize that all that stuff meant nothing and didn’t define him as a person. . “That was not just a bunch of stuff that got destroyed it was me!” (Fight Club). Tyler says “The things you own end up owning you” and that’s when Jack starts to think about what he could possibly from this moment on to give any type of meaning to his life when up to this point his life was only filled with meaningless junk. stating “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis.” (Fight Club). Jack is forced to look back on his life when he realizes that the only way to give himself a purpose is by taking charge and throwing himself out there. Actions speak.
As Jack’s relationship with Tyler begins to develop, we slowly start to see a rebellion unraveling. From the start we see that Tyler and the main character have two very different personalities and view their role in society very differently. Tyler did, after all, change Jack’s view of his own life. Tyler subtly feeds his ideas and beliefs to Jack throughout the novel until Jack starts to develop those same ideas of his own. Tyler and the Jack start a fight club to let out their frustrations of the real world out somehow. The people who join are bored of their routine lifestyle and the chains of society so when they participate in this fights, it’s never about the fight itself, it’s about the release of their frustration and the freedom they feel after the fight is over. Palahniuk does everything he can to emphasize that the society they live in, or we live in for that matter, has grown to be very materialistic and all they end up doing until they die is work jobs that they absolutely hate just to buy junk that they won’t ever really need. Tyler and Jack start Project Mayhem to try and put a stop to all that. Tyler’s goal is to destroy everything and bring it down to a zero because it was the only way that the people could get/ be better. Every single member of fight club has detached themselves from their old life and all live together in a rundown home with no personal belongings of their own, not even their government name. They have separated themselves from the idea that they need to have anything material to define them, including their jobs, because of this existentialist cloud that is Tyler. He has influenced them to lead what they believe is a “better lifestyle.” Nothing matters at this point except Project Mayhem.
As the rebellion begins to reach its peak, the main character, Jack, starts to fill in a few fuzzy memories that reveal to him the truth. Palahnuik impressively uses flashbacks to bring the novel together and shed a light on Jack’s dissociative identity disorder. The whole time that Tyler was conducting the meetings, initiating the members into fight club, orchestrating Project Mayhem, etc., it was Jack the entire time. Jack only actually figured this out at the end of the novel when they blow everything up. Tyler is like Jack’s repressed ego or rather a projection of what Jack wanted himself to be like. It all happened the way it did because Jack was at his breaking point in life and he couldn’t just put himself through the same routine again. The last straw was all Tyler needed to latch on to and bring himself to life.
Jack realizes that Tyler was becoming a monster and he had to take control of the situation before it spiraled out of hand and the next thing you know the barrel of the gun is violating Jack’s mouth. Because of his identity disorder, the only way to make Tyler believe that he was going to die was if Jack actually shot himself in the head since that is where Tyler came from. And just like that, Tyler’s dead, Jack survives, the world has been reset, and Jack has been truly awakened. Palahnuik has successfully executed a rebellion and set the world to zero all while informing us on existentialism
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