May 17, 2014
In Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, the main character is presented as a lifeless, dull person. He leads a consumerist life where his possessions are what he values and are what he believes form him as a person. Once his condominium gets blown up, he believes his personal identity gets destroyed. He also has insomnia, and in order to resolve it he goes to support groups for people with terrible conditions. He cries with them, which allows him to sleep peacefully. In Sam Mendes’ American Beauty, Lester Burnham is introduced as a man who seems to be living the American dream. However, it is far from the truth. Every day he goes to the job he hates, only to come home to have another dinner where he gets criticized by his wife and child who despise him. It is only when the influential side characters Tyler and Ricky are introduced that the main characters begin to have hope that their miserable lives could still be saved. It is evident that the narrator and Lester share one main conflict: their lives are filled with emptiness and they are both struggling on the discovery of meaning and fulfillment. The narrator and Lester are therefore true representations of a person’s journey to discover their personal truth and values in life.
One value that the narrator and Lester begin to share is the value of anti-consumerism. Early on in Fight Club, The narrator’s personality was formed from his possessions. He bought all of his things from IKEA and would always continue to search for ways to improve his condominium. It is only when he meets Tyler that his values change. The narrator’s condominium gets blown up, destroying all of his possessions. He then goes to live with Tyler, in a broken down abandon house where there are holes in the floor. Together they start a fight club, where men fight not for the pleasure of winning, but just for the pleasure of fighting one another. Through fighting, the narrator is able to let go and forget about everything meaningless in his life. Tyler tells him, “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not your car” (Palahniuk, 143). He slowly learns that the possessions he has lost are not important, nor do they form him as a person. Lester Burnham was caught up in the American dream; he had a nice house, a good job, and a family. It was an illusion however, and he hated it. He meets Ricky, a character who talks of beauty and how it is not to be found in material possessions. After being influenced by Ricky, Lester becomes tired of being trapped in a consumerist life. This value is very opposite to that of his wife Carolyn. There is a scene in the film where Lester and Carolyn are about to have an intimate moment, when Carolyn notices he is about to spill wine on the couch. To this he replies, “It’s just a couch!” (Mendes)
Another discovery that is present in both works is the use of illusions to escape reality. This is a main idea in American Beauty that is evident to all characters, but primarily Lester. He meets his daughter’s friend Angela, and becomes obsessed with her. Near the end of the film, he is about to reach his goal, which is to sleep with Angela. However, he suddenly stops and realizes to himself that what he is doing is wrong. This beautiful woman he had been obsessed with this whole time was just a little girl. He had used his infatuation to hide the emptiness in his life and to motivate him to change it. Furthermore, he had finally become fulfilled with his life, which allowed him to escape from his illusion. Fight Club also presents many illusions which the narrator is consumed by. First and foremost is his ultimate illusion of Tyler. He had created this alter ego for himself because he was lost and needed to be guided. He wanted to escape all of the emptiness in his life. The character he created was smarter, better looking, free-spirited, and funny. Essentially, he was everything that the narrator was...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document