Fight Club | Study Guide

Chuck Palahniuk

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Course Hero, "Fight Club Study Guide," May 17, 2017, accessed September 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fight-Club/.

Fight Club | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

The narrator and Tyler sleep in a car in a used car lot; they are afraid to go home because Marla might take revenge. They did something to Marla's mother. Tyler gives other points of comparison, worse things they could have done and worse things they could be suffering now. The narrator then unfolds the story of how he and Tyler got in this mess.

Tyler had sent a telegram to Marla's mother, in Marla's name. The telegram said, "HIDEOUSLY WRINKLED ... PLEASE HELP ME!" He also sent Marla's mother chocolates. Later Marla asked to store a plastic bag of a white substance in the narrator and Tyler's freezer. The narrator recognized the bag and its contents; it looked just like the frozen bags of fat he and Tyler had been making soap from.

Marla explained this was fat from her mother's liposuction procedures. Her mother sent it in case Marla needs collagen injections someday, to make her lips and face look more youthful. She had been storing it in Tyler's freezer for a while, 31 pounds of it. The narrator tried to prevent Marla from looking in the freezer. In the tussle the new bag of fat broke open and spilled on the narrator and Marla. Marla then looked in the freezer and realized the rest of her mother's fat was gone.

In his defense the narrator said things that made no sense to Marla: they needed to wash his trousers, they needed to pay rent. He also said, to Marla or to readers, "It wasn't me." Then the narrator told her what they did with the fat; they made soap. Marla was outraged. She yelled, "You boiled my mother!"

Hiding out in the used car, Tyler tells the narrator a joke. Tyler's joke asks what Marilyn Monroe would be doing if she were alive today. Answer: "Clawing at the lid of her coffin." Even while hiding out from a woman he has enraged, Tyler amuses himself with the thought of another pranked woman.

Analysis

The story of this chapter is told backwards, like the novel as a whole. The end is presented first, and then the narrator explains how things turned out this way. The effect is slightly disorienting, which fits a story in which two personalities control one man.

Palahniuk uses another stylistic effect to represent the narrator's disoriented state of mind. Often the narrator does not use quotation marks for his own words, even the words he speaks out loud. So the reader can't always tell whether the narrator is speaking to Tyler or Marla, thinking to himself, or narrating to readers. For example, when the narrator's words are "It wasn't me," the reader cannot be certain whether he said that to Marla, thought it while Marla was talking, or added these words as a comment later while retelling the story to readers.

The narrator gains something from having Tyler as an alter ego; like a child with an imaginary friend, he has someone to blame: "It wasn't me," the narrator says or thinks, "Tyler boiled her mother." The narrator acts as though Marla's anger were a regrettable accident; they needed to pay rent, and the insult to Marla's mother was just a random side effect of Tyler's money-making scheme. But as in the case of the prank with the perfume bottles, it's possible Marla's shock and outrage are part of the point.

The mother-daughter fat exchange is strange. It's disgusting, but there's something generous about it. "Gleaning," Marla calls the process. The fat is like a kind of nourishment, a sharing of vital bodily resources, as though Marla were back in the womb or as though both women remained part of one maternal body. Tyler's act intervenes in this exchange and breaks it apart. The fat exchange also marks Marla as belonging to a class that can afford plastic surgery; her bohemian life seems to be a choice.

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