Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
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The best way to find out about the culture of the country is through its literature. At the same time, books manage to reveal some universal issues that can be understood anywhere. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk is a novel applicable to both types. It is simultaneously very American and very global, and being published in 1996 is still admired by thousands of people. Release of a film based on the book three years later starring world celebrities multiplied the novel's fame several times. There is a set of explanations of such success. One of the most obvious reasons to list Fight Club among modern classics include pointed references to consumptive way of life revealed in its most exaggerated form in the USA, general loss of goals and aspirations of a large share of those who belong to Generation X, some crucial and topical gender issues and also certain formal elements of the text.
The power of Fight Club can be explained by the fact that Generation X in its psychological sense still exists. Consumer society constantly fuels this category of people. Palahniuk manifested his consistent non-recognition of this phenomenon in his book. What can we change if the names of corporations come up even when it concerns giving names to the new celestial bodies? By blowing up one condominium the author clearly wants to show that this whole culture of consumption deserves it. According to the writer, the present situation is an external progress and on the inside it is nothing but decline. Palahniuk as a conscious citizen does not want to observe to what future horrific consequences it may bring the minds of people. Fight Club is a message that all the comfort items we try to surround ourselves by do not grant the feeling of inner comfort. On the contrary, the times have come when things own us, not vice versa. In such a situation one can hardly remain a same person, which also did not happen to the protagonist of the book. And by mocking and making fun of the rich people Palahniuk tries to show this supreme truth to them: bank account is not a guarantee, luxurious mansion is not a protection.
Loss of sense of living triggered by overwhelming consumerism is one of the deepest issues of the protagonist of Fight Club. Because of it people begin to feel useless, non-accomplished, as if their existence changes nothing, which inevitably leads to depression. The life of Fight Club protagonist is so meaningless that every time in a plane he “prays for a crash”. It started in the epoch of abundance, when everyone began to feel stable ground under their feet, and continues until nowadays. The book presents effective ways of overcoming dullness and gives prompts for people to finally start having “near-life experiences”. With the help of his witty antagonist the author keeps spreading his message: “This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time”. Of course, Palahniuk as a skillful social critic mocks this reality and sometimes even goes too far. Regarding this, a Seattle critic assessed the author’s talent in words “dark, unsettling and nerve-chafing satire of white-collar society set in an uncomfortably near future” (Burkman). Apparently, the novelist found no other way to express himself than to create his marvelous Tyler, which showed his depressed companion the straight and narrow. Every reader anticipates the appearance of the similar shock factor in his or her life in order to facilitate changes. Mr. Durden, a frantic and bright character, is one of the constituents of the novel’s success. Chuck Palahniuk offered incentives, but the audience should realize that, after all, it is just a work of fiction. People should not perceive the ideas and plans of Tyler Durden as a guide for action. Events like the ones described in The New York Times article “Police Say ‘Fight Club Inspired a Bomber”, where a teenager made an attempt to “launch his own ‘Project Mayhem’” aimed at “sabotaging corporations by destroying property” prove the tremendous power of Palahniuk’s words over young minds. However, even adolescents should realize that the writer only shared his thoughts and did not mean them to become such a dark inspiration.
Gender issues arisen in the novel also belong to one of the most important aspects of its literary value. Researchers see multiple relevant interpretation of this topic in Palahniuk’s book, which allows comparison with such theories as Nietzsche an, Buddhist and Marxist. According to The New York Times journalist, these investigations based on Fight Club include, for example, “rhetoric of masculinity,” the “poetics of the body” and the “economics of patriarchy” (Lim). The names of cultural figures of such scale associated with the rebellious American writer prove the significance of his novel. But even without this flattering comparison, “generation of men raised by women”, as Palahniuk puts it, is a sad modern reality. Logically, when life is set and comfortable, there are no ways to manifest one’s masculinity, and only a primal urge to fight gives the desperate members of the club the feeling of accomplishment. Still, beating someone to half-death does not eliminate the burning emotional problems; that is why Palahniuk introduces a female character, Marla Singer. At first it is difficult with her, but in the end she becomes a woman provoking true feelings and making the unnamed protagonist want to protect her. Marla might be the only true love of his life, dysfunctional and perverted, in view of all the split personality experiences, yet true.
It is not only blind consumerism and other plot details that appeal to the readers of Fight Club so much. The novel is written in a curious way, in a vivid colloquial style, which especially captivates young audience. Chuck Palahniuk likes a peculiar syntax structure, plain and understandable. The abundance of interesting facts, which reveal a thorough pre-writing research of the author, makes the story richer and even more exciting to read. In such a way, attention is not only held throughout the book, but its uniqueness makes one go over it again and again.
A key to Fight Club’s popularity is its timelessness enhanced by originality. No one was as straightforward, frank and hopeless before as Chuck Palahniuk. He tried to show his way of dealing with phenomena that bothered him, a very exciting one, even though unrealistic. Moreover, the issues he found important and disturbing reflected the feelings experienced by most of the men. The residents of other developed countries immediately recognized this mockery of the lifestyle of American society. Actual trademark names used in the book make this recognizing very definite and because of that even sadder, as well as seeing oneself in a parody for a male the protagonist is at the beginning of the story. Consumerism-enhanced depression continues to plague people, and that is why the book still remains popular. With many novels written after 1996, Palahniuk is still a legend because of Fight Club in which he told people the uncomfortable truth.