Fight Club | Study Guide

Chuck Palahniuk

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Fight Club | Chapter 2 | Summary



The narrator goes to his weekly support group for men with testicular cancer, Remaining Men Together. He sobs in the arms of Bob, a heavyset man who has enlarged breasts caused by injecting too much testosterone. The narrator doesn't have cancer; he has insomnia. A doctor who refused to give the narrator sleeping pills had told him that to see real suffering, he ought to go to a cancer support group. The narrator took the doctor literally and went; he now finds comfort in the group talk, guided visualizations, and shared crying. These experiences relieve his insomnia; he attends multiple groups, all for diseases he doesn't have.

The narrator is disturbed in his usual routine at Remaining Men Together when Marla Singer shows up. She smokes cigarettes and rolls her eyes, showing contempt for the cancer patients in the room. The narrator recognizes her from his groups for leukemia, melanoma, and tuberculosis. Marla's disturbing presence deprives him of the relief of a good cry, and he vows inwardly to confront her.


Marla mirrors the narrator; she's a fake, just like he is: "Marla's lie reflects my lie." She's his double as much as Tyler is. In relation to Marla, too, the narrator experiences himself as the original: "Still, I was the first fake." Later the reader learns Marla has been coming to these support groups for two years.

In Marla's presence the narrator is self-conscious. She makes him aware they are both fakes "in the middle of all [the support group's] truth." He is too self-conscious in front of Marla to attain a release in crying. Crying is a function of the autonomic nervous system, a bodily experience people can only partly control. Orgasm also involves the autonomic nervous system and is also only partly under willed control. Both can be experiences of relief. So in a sense Marla makes the narrator impotent. Among a group of men with testicular cancer, it's the presence of Marla, not cancer, that emasculates the narrator.

Bob, with his "bitch tits," does the emotional work typically assigned to women: he makes it okay for the narrator to cry. Taking the stereotypical female role, he holds and soothes the narrator. Although Bob now has feminine traits (breasts, a nurturing personality), he was once the pinnacle of masculinity as a champion bodybuilder. The narrator describes bodybuilders on stage, mindlessly obeying the judges' commands to pose and flex. A bodybuilder resembles a space monkey, mindlessly obeying. This sounds like happiness to the narrator, "better than real life."

The name Remaining Men Together suggests the retention of masculinity. Even if the men are missing one or both testicles, they remain men. The name also suggests they are the only men left: the few remaining men. Finally, remaining men together hints their togetherness will not lead them into anything unmanly. Thus the name is like a long version of "no homo," suggesting that homosexuality is not masculine.

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