Tyler’s Kiss in Fight Club
Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club examines and exposes the violent potential of frustrated men who must survive in a consumer culture that does not differentiate between men and women. Like women, men in Fight Club are expected to express themselves through the material goods they labor to buy. While both the book and the film versions are drenched with violence; ironically, it is a kiss that emerges as the symbol that justifies that violence. For the narrator, Tyler, and all the space monkeys, the lye-burned kiss of death on the back of the hand symbolizes the recipient’s acceptance of his own mortality and his completion of a rite of passage.
Both in the book and the film, Tyler explains to the narrator that soap, the agent by which people clean their clothes and their bodies, has its roots in human sacrifices, that the ashes of sacrificial pyres turned into lye from the rains and that the lye mixed with the fat of the sacrificed victims to make soap. Tyler explains, “Soap and human sacrifice go hand in hand” (Palahniuk 75). This assertion comes as Tyler’s kiss burns into the flesh of the narrator. Jack tries to meditate away from the pain but Tyler keeps bringing him back. “This is the greatest moment of your life,” Tyler says, “and you’re off somewhere missing it” (Palahniuk 77). Tyler wants Jack to accept his own mortality. He wants Jack to let go and let himself hit rock bottom. “Someday,” Tyler says, “you will die, and until you know that, you’re useless to me” (Palahniuk 76). Only by accepting the kiss of death, can Jack liberate himself from his fears and begin to live freely. In the film, while the kiss still burns, Tyler states, “It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything” (Fight Club). Therefore, the kiss that eventually scars the back of Jack’s hand represents his knowledge of his own unavoidable death. By accepting this, though, Jack has completed his rite of passage into Tyler’s...
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