The narrator is caught in a soulless routine of work and consumption. Support groups provide him with a selfish release: he likes the attention and the chance to cry. But he stays detached, never giving his real name and making cynical observations to himself about support group rituals. He is scornful of the rich and the poor alike. When he "meets" (invents) Tyler, he realizes he wants what he calls "anarchy": rituals of brutality and male bonding and gleeful, destructive pranks. When Tyler murders two men, the narrator realizes he is not amoral like Tyler, and he sacrifices himself in an attempt to destroy Tyler.
When the narrator first meets Tyler, he seems self-possessed but friendly and devoted to aesthetic perfection. As fight club develops, Tyler reveals himself as a skilled orator and a shrewd judge of how to secure a man's loyalty. He seems to do whatever he likes, though he also arranges to have his outrageous acts publicized and he requires an army of loyal men.
Marla puts up a front of not caring about anything; she smokes in a cancer support group and smirks at the tearful confessions. But the narrator describes her heart as being like his battered, scarred face; she has suffered losses, and she attempts suicide. In the end, she sides with the morally upright, self-sacrificing narrator rather than Tyler.