Fight Club: Consumerism and the Oedipal Complex

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Fight Club: Consumerism and the Oedipal Complex

With a gun in your mouth it’s hard to narrate. The Narrator feels the cold metallic taste 190 stories up in the air on the roof of the Parker-Morris Building. Primary and secondary charges wrap around the base columns and in a few minutes all 190 stories will go into free-fall crushing the National Museum below. Welcome to Project Mayhem. If you destroy our history we can be the architects of the future. The Narrator attempts to raise his voice in opposition but Tyler pushes the barrel down firmly, restricting his tongue. Then he recalls how it all started, how it all had to do with an addiction support groups and another faker named Marla Singer…

Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is a contemporary example of Freudian influence on literature. Several Freudian themes are explored throughout the story including the castration complex, the phallic stage, the oedipal triangle, and the relationship between the id, the ego, and the super-ego. In this novel Palahniuk attempts to reconcile the primitive nature of masculinity with the modern notions of responsibility and reality attached to it as well as to comment on the contemporary version of the oedipal complex found in single-parent households. He does so through this fictional novel with a style that incorporates a very fragmented sentence structure which allows him to give us very cerebral stream of thoughts much like the voice in your own head. The Narrator attempts to find equilibrium between the two extremes and to simultaneously resolve his oedipal complex. This represents the contemporary plight men face today where violence and sex are taboo and a source of shame while consumerism and economic domination are exalted. This internal struggle is personified and explored through the Narrator and Tyler. The fractured portion of the Narrator’s psyche manifests in Tyler. Yet, they are two opposing entities throughout the novel, even sabotaging one another much in the same way Humbert Humbert and Claire Quilty did in Lolita and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They cannot seem to coexist in one body; the two personalities suffocate one another and prevent each other from being a single functioning member of society. In the beginning of the novel the Narrator is a passive traveling automobile risk assessor with a fetish for Ikea furniture and a paralyzing case of insomnia. He is psychologically castrated by society and shackled with the chains of capitalistic consumerism. This separation from humanity, and even more disturbingly, reality causes him to detach from society. Living a life of constant repression, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and a life that is void of any substance triggers his psyche to redefine his ideal ego. This new ego would say the things he was afraid to say, do the things he was afraid to do, and be the person that he could never truly be. “To do this, he also adopts a kind of belief system, one reminiscent of existentialism, that promotes hyper-masculinity” (Grayson 121). This new alter-ego was named Tyler Durden.

Tyler manufactures and sells high quality soap made of stolen human fat, selling the stretched and pulled aristocrats their fat asses back to them. He is an ironic profiteer of the materialistic and cosmetic needs of women. Tyler also moonlights as a server at the prestigious Pressman Hotel where he terrorizes the unsuspecting upper-crust of society with dishes laden with various bodily fluids. As a projector technician in a local theater he also enjoys splicing single frames of pornography into whatever animated fluff is playing that week. Tyler is the personification of chaos and anarchy. At the beginning of the novel the Narrator and Tyler are polar opposites in almost every aspect.

The Narrator’s insomnia leads him to attend a list of support groups in which he fakes having illnesses to obtain the sympathy and compassion of others. When he cries in...
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