The Effects of Modernity on Identity in Fight Club
Identity is a definition of the self, an explanation of character. However, in the movie Fight Club, the components that comprise outward identity often prove to be transitory. Edward Norton’s “Jack” character asks, “If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?” The effects of modernity lead to the impermanence of self image, and the decay of identity.
Rather than having a true identity, “Jack” is called a “byproduct of a lifestyle obsession.” He bases personal worth upon what he owns. It is this materialistic consumerism that steals individuality. How can a concrete identity be established when its value assessment is based upon chain store furniture? The first step made towards recognition is when his possessions are blown up. The push for materialistic progress is a principal example of the concept of modernity in the film. The viewer is led to believe that the destruction is an accident. In the bar scene, Tyler Durden says, “The things you own end up owning you”. His statement is a generalization of the life “Jack” leads. Since “Jack” has no identity outside of his furniture and wardrobe; everything he knows about himself is dependent upon his possessions.
When Tyler later asks Jack to hit him as hard as he can, he justifies his request by asking, “How much could you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” Within this question, Tyler proposes another key idea of the film, that of Dealing with Conflict. The strength of a person’s identity or self is heavily dependent upon how well he or she deals with conflict. Since neither had been in a fight before, each stood to gain a great deal of knowledge of his identity. The term “fight” does not necessarily refer only to fisticuffs. The concept of the “fight” is more accurately represented by any kind of conflict. The club and Tyler are created to fulfill Jack’s inner need to substantiate his masculinity, to rebel against consumer culture, to further a class conflict, to feel real pain, and to cope with anonymity.
Tyler complains that they are part of a generation of men raised by women. They seem to be wrapped up in matters such as interior design and fashion rather than the primal hunter/gatherer basis of masculinity. The club accomplishes Jack’s need to break away from such a helpless kind of feminine state. The loss of masculinity is also physically manifest in the castrated men of the testicular cancer support group. In a way Jack belonged there as much as the rest of them, because he too had been emasculated much to the same degree as many of the men who had been physically separated from their manhood. By engaging in the primal violence of the fight club, the men could get a piece of that back. They wore their battle scars with pride, and it gave them a new sense of empowerment, and a new, more forward and domineering attitude.
The club and...