Chuck Palahniuk’s Place in History
The Dictionary defines being normal as “Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected”. One will not find this in a Chuck Palahniuk novel; instead one will find violence rebellious morals and the search for self. “He writes for hard-core devotees drawn to the wild, angry imagination on display and to the taboo busting humor at which he excels” (Maslin 43). In his novels the characters start the story as conformists, but when they question their individuality the peculiar begins. The pro and antagonists in Palahniuk’s novels are very complex and fascinating creatures. The main characters would be classified as freaks or the abnormal of society. Each one is troubled, and artistically crafted to be very dark and morbid. The journey for self realization is what these characters all have in common. The idea of these characters overlooking the real world and creating a new more exhilarating one is evident in his work. In an article Charles Michaels wrote he says “One aspect of American life, in particular, became Palahniuk’s obsession—the ability to recreate yourself to be what you dream you should be” (1). Modern ordinary life is critiqued most in Palahniuk’s most well known novel, Fight Club. The main character in Fight Club learns to abandon his superfluous possessions and discover a new life while on the quest for self. Palahniuk rejects the commoditized world by creating a thirst for identity and self distinctiveness in his bizarre characters. Many of Palahniuk’s characters begin their stories as seemingly desolate specimen. As the novels progress, the characters evolve as well. This unhappiness and emptiness eventually inspires the quest for individualism. Marc Price states that “Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is a commentary on the alienation and struggle for the search for self” (1). Palahniuk evokes through this novel that the desire for meaning is the sole internal motivation of civilization. The main character of Fight Club is the narrator of his journey into self discovery and the chaos that rebellion can bring. Although he is the main character, he remains nameless throughout the entire novel. I believe the author did this to make the narrator seem less human. In the narrator’s speech throughout the novel, Palahniuk describes how a death without identity is the worst possible death. The author explains that the path to finding one’s meaning is not easy, and can in fact develop into a desperate, indecisive struggle, as it does in the narrator’s case. “Many American men, frustrated with modern society’s idea of how they should behave, were looking for a different perspective on what it means to be a man. Palahniuk tackled the issue directly and created a character who was well-behaved on the surface, but haunted by demons that made him want to fight—not for any cause in particular, just to feel the pain of it and to see if he could handle it” (Michaels 2). Fight Club shares a modern perspective on the meaning of life, and portrays how desire can influence the lives of men and women throughout the world. Palahniuk provides his first perspective on the desire for meaning in life through the narrator’s action. The narrator is living a life with no meaning, and he realizes that a death without identity would be a waste of his time on earth. His insomnia makes this even worse. In the beginning of the book he feels like a space monkey, and states, “You do the little job you’re trained to do. Pull a lever. Push a button. You don’t understand any of it, and then you just die” (pg. 12). This comment introduces the reader to the intense need for meaning in society. Most people find meaning in materialistic goods, but the narrator, after losing all he owns in the explosion in his condominium, perceives that the real meaning of his life will be in what he accomplishes. The narrator’s search for meaning ultimately...
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