You are not your bank account. You are not the clothes you wear. You are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your bowel cancer. You are not your Grande latte. You are not the car you drive. You are not your fucking khakis--Tyler Durden, Fight Club
In 1996, Chuck Palahniuk published his first novel, Fight Club. On the surface it can is seen as a backlash to the feminization of men, and a celebration of violence for violence sake. But what is it really about? Fight Club is a protest against not the feminization of the western male, but against men themselves. (Audio track three on the special edition DVD featuring author Chuck Palahniuk and screenwriter Jim Uhls is fantastic and can help the reader understand the motivations of the characters much better if they haven't read the book.)
What is the Motivation of the Hyper-masculinity of Fight Club?
How much do you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight--Tyler Durden, Fight Club
The question posed by Tyler to the unnamed narrator, (from here on, referred to as `Jack') may seem brutish on the surface, but it is has very deep meaning. It is a battle call against suburban sensibilities. Jack is domesticated, an animal caged by an office, and he doesn't know it. He is his own keeper, shuffling from one cage to another five days week. Much like many affluent young men of my generation, to whom this work is targeted, have not led fulfilling lives. Society has not given them ample rites of passage. There is something empty. Fathers leave to start new families, advertising tells us what we should look like, how to be cool, et cetera. Tyler addresses this, calling men "slaves with white collars...working jobs we hate to buy shit we don't need...we're slowly finding that out, and we're very pissed off."
Durden polarizes the malaise of the modern young affluent man, and his solution is violence. The violence that he creates with fight club is libertarian in a sense that it is out of the way, between two consenting adults, but also a throwback to ritual combat. One man runs as a `chief' figure who announces and enforces the rules fight club. During one scene, Jack takes note of this and compares the chanting of the crowd to a Pentecostal service, the crowd speaking in tongues.
With the condemnation of many of society's more violent activities, i.e., boxing, action films, et cetera, fight club's slippery slope argument that men want violence in their lives seems to make sense. Something IS missing in our lives, something that has always been there but is disappearing as the decline of western civilization continues. Tyler addresses this problem on the public bus, pointing out a Calvin Klein ad and asking if that is what a man is. Should we buy what Madison Avenue tells us what to be?
For thousands of years man has been the provider of families, the soldier, the knight, and the hero that saved the princess, the intrepid explorer. Fight Club...