Fight Club is classified as a satirical novel; it’s a dark comedy. I will admit many parts are laugh-out-loud funny. But it’s really a literary novel. We start with a nameless narrator, who’s bouncing all over the place, talking about explosives, death, support groups, and his job, which he hates. He works for a generic car company, a typical nine-to-five. In the evenings, he attends support groups for people who are dying of cancer. In some twisted way, the only way he feels alive is to be so close to death. Our narrator describes the emptiness of American mass-consumerism, and the futility of owning and acquiring things, like clothes and furniture. He feels trapped by his perfect life, his simple job, and all of his possessions, which he feels own him, rather than the other way around.
He loses sleep, obsessing over this, until he meets Tyler Durden. Tyler works odd jobs at night, and his goal is chaos. Like the Joker from Batman, he’s an undercover social deviant. At first, he works as a waiter, urinating in customers’ soup. But as the book progresses, Tyler’s actions get darker, violent, more frightening. We also have a prominent lady character, Marla Singer, who’s just as eccentric as Tyler, and whom our narrator has met through the support groups. He instantly hates her.
After the narrator blows up his own apartment, destroying his possessions to be free of them, he and Tyler begin the Fight Club. It evolves into a monster organization of men aiming to breed destruction and chaos over the nation— and of course, beat one another to a pulp. It’s a response to— or a method of escaping— the controlled, confined matrix in which society lives, to point out the petty uselessness of the civilized daily grind that masks and suppresses authentic human instincts.
What makes this novel so interesting is that, crazy as the narrator is, we all can empathize, can relate to that moment of questioning our first-world, cookie cutter lives, realizing that on some level, it’s an illusion. Palahniuk also evokes the question of the need for violence. Personally, violence is not a big part of my life. But I understand that, on a primal level, it is part of every person’s survival instinct, and of the human experience. The idea in Fight Club is that violence is an important thread in the human make-up, which civilized society has tried to restrain, but which cannot and should not be denied.
Fight Club is original and evocative. It will take you on a wild ride and make you think.