Soap"With enough soap, we could blow up just about anything." 'Tyler was full of useful information.'
-Tyler and the Narrator
Erika writes: When the narrator first meets Tyler, Tyler declares that he is a soap salesman, although Tyler has various other occupations including a night-time movie projectionist and a waiter. Tyler, however, most identifies himself with the job of selling soap, thus lending weight to the symbolic importance played by soap in the movie. Tyler calls soap "the foundation of civilization" and tells the narrator that "the first soap was made from the ashes of heroes". He also uses lye, a chemical ingredient of soap, to introduce the narrator to the pain of "premature enlightenment." In this role, soap is a symbol of purification and cleanliness, of a culture lacking the hypocrisy and fraudulence of contemporary culture. However, in that Tyler makes soap by stealing fat from the liposuction clinic dumpsters and then sells these soaps "to department stores for $20 a bar", soap also represents a too highly refined culture, a culture where all traces of natural humanity are suppressed, effaced, washed off. Rather than being made from the "ashes of heroes", soap is made from "selling rich women their own fat asses." The fact that Tyler is a salesman for this product represents Jack's subservience to this culture. Fight Club is founded as a way for men to regain their primitive instinct that culture tries to wash off. In that soap represents both the purifying and effacing tendencies of civilization, its symbolic function resembles that of ice in The Mosquito Coast where Allie Fox, a man obsessed with the fact that American civilization has become effete, perfects an ice machine believing ice to be the foundation of civilization. Interestingly enough, Fox deplores that one is forced to buy ice in America, making ice the symbol of all that is wrong about civilization as well as all that is right.
Freezon points out "Tyler didn't say that soap is "the foundation of civilization" as quoted in the "soap" section of the site, he actually said that soap is the "yardstick of civilization"..."
The Phone Call"I star sixty-nined you. I never answer my phone." -Tyler
The one step that truly changes the Narrator's life occurs after his apartment explodes. Inspired by the doorman who asks if he has anyone he can call, the Narrator goes to a pay phone and dials Marla's number, then hangs up when she answers. He then pulls out Tyler's business card and calls him. No one answers, but after the Narrator hangs up the pay phone, it rings again. Picking it up, he discovers Tyler on the other end. Tyler is rather loudly eating, potato chips probably, and asks who's on the line. After the Narrator refreshes his memory-- "the clever guy?"-- Tyler calmly asks, "So what's up?" The Narrator says, "You're not going to believe this..."
How does this scene change everything? It is the Narrator's first voluntary step into Tyler's world. He rejects the idea of asking for Marla's help, possibly because her life promises to be too like the one that just blasted out of his condo window. Instead he ends up turning to Tyler. A parody of 'The Matrix' occurs in this scene, holding particular meaning. As the pay phone rings, the filming technique mimics that used in 'The Matrix' when Tank and Dozer would call the other rebels inside the Matrix to provide a gateway for them to exit into the real world. Tyler's call serves the same purpose: It is the means by which the Narrator leaves his comfortable, familiar life for that of "reality," at least as Tyler sees it.
What's especially interesting about this scene is a sign on the pay phone that reads "No incoming calls." This proves that the Narrator only imagined receiving a call from Tyler.
A asks, "does it mean anything that tyler never picks up his phone? and what exactly does it mean that when the Narrator talks to suicide-attemp marla on the phone tyler...