Fight Club

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Fight Club Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the house, the Narrator finds a man waiting outside. Tyler and the Narrator survey the man and Tyler mutters that he’s too young. The Narrator realizes that it’s the young man whose faced he “ruined” weeks before. In an aside, Tyler tells the Narrator to ridicule everyone who stands outside the house—as an initiation test, Project Mayhem applicants must stand outside the house for days while the Narrator and Tyler criticize them. For the next few weeks, the house slowly fills with Project Mayhem recruits. Recruits render fat all day long. One day, Bob joins Project Mayhem.
Where the only requirement for joining fight club was a willingness to fight, Project Mayhem has a complicated initiation process—almost as if the recruits are applying for a job, or trying to join the army (suggesting the militaristic and even fascist aspects of Project Mayhem).
Themes
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Narrator leaves the house to meet with Marla. Together, they talk about their lives—Marla has breast cancer, but she wants to talk about flowers. The Narrator is careful not to mention Tyler at all.
Marla flirted with death while she herself was alive and healthy, but now that Marla is actually close to death, she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. This fact is perhaps Palahniuk suggesting some of the shallowness of fight club and Project Mayhem itself—courting death seems glamorous and masculine, but in the face of the real thing all the posturing and sloganeering is meaningless, and one can only try to find pleasure and meaning wherever one can, even if that’s just talking about flowers.
Themes
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
In the following weeks, the Narrator notices that Project Mayhem members have “Tyler’s kiss” on their hands. Yet Tyler is almost never at home anymore. One day, Marla shows up outside and tries to see Tyler, but the members of Project Mayhem pull her away.
Tyler’s kiss comes to symbolize the de-individualization of Project Mayhem: everyone who works for Tyler has become essentially the same. They’ve all supposedly “woken up” and embraced the “realness” of pain and death, but in the process they’ve also become unquestioning followers of Tyler’s anarchist ideas (thus undercutting the very idea of anarchism itself). Tyler becomes increasing secretive, even with Marla and the Narrator, suggesting that Project Mayhem is plotting increasingly larger and more violent operations.
Themes
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Narrator looks for Tyler Durden everywhere, but never finds him. He finds himself walking around late at night, sometimes stumbling on secret fight clubs. He always asks if anybody has seen Tyler Durden, and the fight club members always say no, with a wink. The Narrator hears from Project Mayhem members that Tyler is building a secret army.
The passage feels uncanny because of the way the fight club members wink at the Narrator: they seem to be aware of something the Narrator himself once knew but has since forgotten (foreshadowing the Narrator’s unconscious actions).
Themes
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
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Marla visits again, and the Narrator walks outside with her. As they walk, the Narrator notices a human jawbone half-buried in the garden. Quickly, he pushes the jawbone into the soil where Marla won’t see it.
Project Mayhem is becoming increasingly violent, even murdering people in the name of “ending civilization.” But the Narrator hides the evidence of violence from Marla, perhaps horrified himself and also not wanting to remind her of her own impending death.
Themes
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon