Over time, the Narrator learns that Tyler makes good money selling his soaps to fancy stores—people say his soap is the best they’ve ever used.
Stores and customers have no idea how savage and violent Tyler is; society is so obsessed with “nice” appearances that it ignores the ugly truths lurking beneath the surface.
Tyler and the Narrator sit by a used car lot, surrounded by old vehicles. The Narrator explains that he and Tyler can’t go home right now, because Marla has come by the house and accused the Narrator of “cooking her mother.”
The passage is again structured as a flashback: we’ll see what Tyler means about “cooking” Marla’s mother.
The Narrator flashes back to explain what happened. Tyler went to the post office and bluffed his way into getting Marla’s mail—“Marla can be a guy’s name.” Afterwards, he sent Marla’s mother a huge box of chocolates.
Tyler always seems to have a plan, even if the Narrator can’t figure out what the plan is (why the chocolates?). It’s comically easy for him to steal Marla’s mail, showing how weak society and bureaucracy are.
Earlier that night, Marla came to the house with a huge package, saying that she wanted to put it in the freezer. She insisted that the Narrator had told her she could—something that the Narrator angrily denies. Marla shows the Narrator what she’s holding: sandwich bags full of rendered human fat—collagen. Later that night, the Narrator learns the truth from Tyler: whenever Marla’s mother has a liposuction, she has the fat stored, in case she needs collagen injections. When Marla’s mother has extra fat, she sends it to Marla. Now, the Narrator realizes why Tyler wanted Marla’s mail, and sent Marla’s mother candy. Tyler proudly tells the Narrator that he’s been making a fortune with Marla’s collagen—he uses it to make soap.
Marla saves her mother’s collagen for collagen injections down the line. In the 90s, there was a “collagen craze,” during which many women got collagen injections in their lips, giving them fuller and (supposedly) more attractive lips. Tyler, it now seems, sends Marla’s mother chocolate because he knows that she uses liposuction to get rid of her fat, which Marla then takes to Tyler’s fridge, and which Tyler, unbeknownst to Marla) uses to make soap.
When Marla came to the house that evening, she looked in the freezer and realized that Tyler had been using Marla’s mother’s collagen. The Narrator explains that he used the collagen to make soap, and Marla is furious—she accuses the Narrator of “boiling my mother.” When she pulls one of the bags of fat out of the freezer, she accidentally rips it, spilling fat on the floor—she then proceeds to slip in the fat and fall to the ground. Back in the present, the Narrator and Tyler are sitting near the used car lot, waiting for Marla to cool down. She’s probably still in their house, destroying everything.
Marla discovers Tyler’s deceptions. Tyler is essentially “recycling” people: converting them back into products and objects. But the conceit of the chapter also alludes to the way that the human body itself has become a product: an object that can be improved and beautified with injections and surgeries. Critics have pointed to the chapter as a good example of the way that Palahniuk often singles out women for punishment in his fiction, and invites readers to laugh at female characters’ legitimate suffering. In effect, one could argue, Palahniuk is disguising some nasty, old-fashioned misogyny as intelligent social commentary and satire.