Fight Club | Study Guide

Chuck Palahniuk

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Course Hero. (2017, May 17). Fight Club Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 24, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fight-Club/

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Course Hero. "Fight Club Study Guide." May 17, 2017. Accessed June 24, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fight-Club/.

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Course Hero, "Fight Club Study Guide," May 17, 2017, accessed June 24, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fight-Club/.

Fight Club | Chapter 1 | Summary

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Summary

The unnamed narrator and Tyler Durden have a showdown on the rooftop of an empty office building in an unnamed city in the United States. Tyler pushes a gun into the narrator's mouth. He intends to shoot the narrator, but he also promises he and the narrator will live forever. A homemade bomb will detonate in ten minutes and destroy the office building. The narrator describes how to make nitroglycerine and napalm, and he adds, "I know this because Tyler knows this."

The narrator compares being on the high rooftop to being a "space monkey" strapped into a rocket. For the narrator, the key to the comparison is the mindless way the space monkey performs its task: "Pull a lever. Push a button."

On other floors of the office building, people in a group called Project Mayhem, or perhaps the Mischief Committee of Project Mayhem, push desks and computers out the windows and cheer the destruction. The narrator reveals he is in a "sort of triangle thing": "I want Tyler. Tyler wants Marla. Marla wants me."

The narrator implies he will make Tyler a legend by writing his story. He doesn't say whether Tyler answers him. At the chapter's end, three minutes are left before the building's destruction.

Analysis

Even first-time readers know the book has to loop back to this moment when Tyler and the narrator are on the rooftop, with both the gun and the bomb about to go off. The narrator seems to offer to write the story to avoid being killed. "Wait," he says to Tyler. "Where would Jesus be if no one had written the gospels?" If Tyler had said yes, be my chronicler, one source of tension would be gone; he would take the gun out of the narrator's mouth. But, Tyler doesn't answer, so the shooting scene hangs over the rest of the book. Readers know the narrator will find himself there again, facing the gun.

In the showdown, Tyler has the upper hand. But the narrator says something that suggests a different relationship; about homemade bombs he says, "I know this because Tyler knows this." A writer knows what his or her fictional character knows. Readers later learn Tyler is an invention of the narrator's. Thus the narrator has the upper hand; he is real and Tyler is an invention. (Then again, the narrator is an invention of the writer, Palahniuk.)

There is a gritty glamour to Project Mayhem: the secrecy, the DIY explosives, the fatalism of coolly staring back at a gun barrel. The group's name recalls the code names of World War II resistance groups. But the political or combat goals of Project Mayhem are unclear. Members of the Mischief Committee fling papers out the windows, "destroying every scrap of history." However, the narrator says the bombing of the Parker-Morris building will "go into all the history books." These aims seem contradictory, destroying history and making it. Perhaps history is meant to start all over again with Project Mayhem.

The mention of a "triangle thing" suggests there is something sexual or romantic about the statement "I want Tyler." The narrator says the triangle is not about love; it's about "property as in ownership." By the novel's end, it's clear their bond is that of enemies. Though they begin as friends, by the end the narrator feels a murderous rage for Tyler.

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