Fight Club | Study Guide

Chuck Palahniuk

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Fight Club | Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

The narrator suffers the pain of the chemical burn; the lye is still on his hand. Tyler talks to him about facing death and about the discovery of soap from the melted fat and lye created by people burned at the stake. Tyler tells him he has to endure to the pain until he faces death; he must "give up."

Tyler calls heretics burned at the stake "human sacrifices." "It was right to kill all those people," he says, because of the resulting discovery of soap. "The first soap was made of heroes," Tyler claims. The narrator chimes in, enjoining the reader to think of the animals used for cosmetics testing and monkeys shot into space.

In response to the pain, the narrator sends himself on a guided meditation. He visualizes a castle he visited in Ireland just after college. Although he doesn't use the name, the castle sounds like Blarney Castle, where it is said people who kiss a stone in the castle's south wall, called the Blarney Stone, are given the gift of gab. In the narrator's memory (or fantasy), the Irish men instead pissed on the castle wall, "their little act of rebellion." They encouraged the narrator to do the same. The meditation ends, and the narrator finds he's "pissing in [his] black trousers."

The narrator is urinating in response to the intense pain and also crying. Tyler tells him the urine is "a sign" of ancient cultures who washed their clothes in urine. And every teardrop as it mixes with the lye will cause "a cigarette burn scar." Tyler finally halts the chemical burn with vinegar. The burn on the narrator's hand looks like a pair of lips, in the shape of Tyler's kiss. Cigarette burns are scattered around the main scar.

Analysis

The idea of the narrator's teardrops leaving a scar is illogical. If a teardrop fell into the paste of wet lye on his hand, why would that teardrop then take a second bounce and fall outside the lye, creating a new burn? But even if it's not strictly realistic, the idea fits the fanciful tone of this chapter: urine is "a sign" of ancient cultures, a chemical burn is a kiss, and teardrops leave a mark. The narrator and Tyler don't comment on one aspect of lye: it sounds like "lie." Tyler's oath is based on a lie.

Alongside the burn shaped like Tyler's kiss are little burns like cigarette burns. In the previous chapter Tyler said the chemical burn would be worse than "the pain of a hundred cigarettes." These references recall the "cigarette burn" in Chapter 2, the little circle in the corner of the screen that tells the projectionist it's time to switch film projectors. The burn on the narrator's hand is like the movie's "cigarette burn," a symbol of a shift between two personalities.

Tyler seems to be preparing the narrator for death. Tyler speaks glowingly about those who sacrificed themselves for the discovery of soap. The narrator uses the same terms about animal testing and cosmetics. What is gained by these sacrifices seems trivial, though: soap, makeup. It is not clear whether Tyler has a plan worth dying for, at least not yet. But the narrator appears convinced by Tyler's idea one has to "give up" and face death. The narrator repeats Tyler's idea: "First you have to hit bottom." Although Tyler's plans are unclear, the castle is a clue to the narrator and Tyler's shared desires. The trip to the castle was where the narrator "first wanted anarchy."

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