In Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk the main themes of the novel are the struggle of being a man in modern society and destroying the idea of inequality in society. The novel’s characters are mainly men who have a hard time fitting into the picture of the ‘perfect man’. This leads to the creation of Fight Club: a place where men can experience the true meaning of masculinity. Tyler Durden also creates Project Mayhem, a group of men who help him achieve his goal of changing the current society to make a better one from it. These two main themes found in Fight Club showcase Palahniuk’s ideas of our society.
The struggle of masculinity in Fight Club is shown throughout the entire novel. The creation of Fight Club in the story is a way for men who are tired of living up to the expectations of becoming the perfect man and those who have no idea what the meaning of masculinity is anymore to truly experience what a ‘real man’ is like through fighting and facing emotions of fear and pain. Fight Club is a way for those men to strip themselves of their social status and their contribution to society to be themselves. Palahniuk’s idea of a man is not what society thinks, a good job, nice clothes, a positive attitude; he thinks that a man must be as far away from the idea of femininity as possible and to avoid showing any type of human emotion.
His definition of masculinity is seen in the novel when he states, “You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this same guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything,”(Palahniuk, 51). He explains how the boys, white bread, who enter Fight Club leave as real men, carved wood. Fight Club also helps those men gain confidence to tackle their own personal problems. When they enter the club, they are scared and nervous to confront their problems, but once they brawl with a stranger, their self-esteem is increased and they feel more confident. Masculinity and emasculation in Fight Club convey Palahniuk’s true feelings on the real world’s expectations for men.
The society that Palahniuk continuously mentions in Fight Club is defined by consumerism and the obsession of perfection with the higher class barely lifting a finger to buy whatever they want, even if it’s useless while the lower class work their whole life to buy those same things. Tyler speaks about this theme in the novel many times to tell the reader about his ideas that contradict the ideas of their society.
For example, in the novel, while the narrator and Tyler are in an elevator, Tyler speaks of the higher class as titans and the lower class as cockroaches. The titans can step on the cockroach anytime. Later in chapter 22, Tyler speaks again about this analogy and says, “The people you\’re trying to step on, we\’re everyone you depend on. We\’re the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner.[…] We control every part of your life,” (Palahniuk, 166). In short, without the cockroaches, the titans can’t survive. The creation of Fight Club and Project Mayhem is to break these normal standards and to create new ones where inequality in society is destroyed.