Fight Club

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Marla Singer Character Analysis

Marla Singer is the only major female character in Fight Club, and a vague “love interest” for both Tyler and the Narrator. Like the Narrator at the beginning of the book, Marla is fascinated with death and the “real.” First she seeks out death-like experiences by attending cancer support groups, and later by attempting to overdose on Xanax. While Marla shares with the Narrator/Tyler a desire for danger, she objects to many of the ways that Tyler and the Narrator pursue danger; she’s furious when she learns that the Narrator/Tyler has been converting her mother’s fat into soap, and she calls the police when she finds out that the Narrator/Tyler has been planning murders. Marla, in short, is obsessed with death, but also seems to believe in right and wrong—in the end, she and the Narrator share a similar worldview, and finally admit that they “like” each other.

Marla Singer Quotes in Fight Club

The Fight Club quotes below are all either spoken by Marla Singer or refer to Marla Singer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the W. W. Norton edition of Fight Club published in 2005.
Chapter 4 Quotes

"Funerals are nothing compared to this," Marla says. "Funerals are all abstract ceremony. Here, you have a real experience of death."

Related Characters: Marla Singer (speaker)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, the Narrator meets Marla Singer, the woman who’s been attending his cancer support groups (including for some forms of cancer, such as testicular cancer, which she can’t possibly have). Marla, just like the Narrator, is a “faker”—she pretends to be suffering from various awful diseases in order to get close to be people are actually suffering. Here, Marla gives an explanation of why she does so: she wants to get close to the “real experience of death.”

Marla is fascinated by death: she seems to find it beautiful and at times almost sexually alluring. While Palahniuk doesn’t tell us much about Marla’s life, he suggests that Marla turns to cancer support groups for the same basic reason as the Narrator—she’s sick of normal American consumerist life, and wants an alternative, a feeling of primal reality and danger. Surrounded by the specter of death and true suffering, she’s found that alternative.

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Chapter 14 Quotes

Marla's philosophy of life, she told me, is that she can die at any moment. The tragedy of her life is that she doesn't.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Marla Singer
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Marla has just learned that she probably has breast cancer, and might even die soon. Marla refuses to determine whether or not her breast cancer is terminal—she lives in willful ignorance of her own (possibly) impending death.

Marla’s breast cancer is darkly humorous, because she spent years pretending to have cancer in order to attend various cancer support groups and vicariously experience other people’s grief. Now she actually has cancer. Marla continues to be fascinated with death, and yet her refusal to listen to a doctor—i.e., her refusal to find out when she’s going to die—indicates that she’s also frightened of death. Marla, it could be argued, enjoys the “thrill” of dying—knowing how much longer she’s going to live would reduce her thrill, then. Marla’s behavior indicates that she, as much as anyone in fight club, is fascinated by death and suffering.

Chapter 23 Quotes

I love everything about Tyler Durden, his courage and his smarts. His nerve. Tyler is funny and charming and forceful and independent, and men look up to him and expect him to change their world. Tyler is capable and free, and I am not.
I'm not Tyler Durden.
"But you are, Tyler," Marla says.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Marla Singer (speaker)
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Narrator turns to Marla Singer for help. He’s just learned that he is Tyler Durden, or rather, Tyler Durden represents his own unconscious mind. The Narrator explains what’s going on to Marla, and in the process, he comes to understand why he imagined Tyler in the first place. Tyler represents the Narrator at his highest aspiration: brave, smart, charismatic, etc. The Narrator is so repressed and isolated as a result of his consumerist lifestyle that he has no outlet for his unconscious impulses. As a result, these unconscious impulses have “come together” to form their own person—Tyler.

But as Marla points out to the Narrator, the Narrator can’t just divorce himself from “Tyler’s side” of the brain. The Narrator is still referring to Tyler as a separate person, with his own unique personality and capabilities. In reality, the Narrator and Tyler are the same person—both in the literal sense that they share a body, and in the more psychological sense that Tyler and the Narrator know the same things, have the same talents, etc. The difference is that Tyler is more in touch with his “cool” and masculine side—the aspects of Tyler’s personality that people like do exist in the Narrator, but they’re buried very deep down. The passage is important, then, because it shows the Narrator truly coming to terms with his split personality, and starting to realize that he is responsible for the often horrific things that Tyler has “achieved” through Project Mayhem.

Chapter 27 Quotes

There's Marla.
Jump over the edge.
There's Marla, and she's in the middle of everything and doesn't know it.
And she loves you.
She loves Tyler.
She doesn't know the difference.
Somebody has to tell her. Get out. Get out. Get out.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Marla Singer
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, The Narrator wakes up in the ruins of his old condo, which Tyler blew up, and contemplates suicide. He’s become aware that Tyler has murdered his boss—meaning that the police will be trying to find “him.” After a series of dissociative episodes, the Narrator comes to realize that he’s responsible for a whole string of murders. Despite the fact that the Narrator committed said murders while he was in Tyler’s mind (meaning that, in a way, he’s innocent of the crimes), he continues to feel responsible—it was, after all, the Narrator’s repressed desire to murder his boss that led to the man’s death.

What’s interesting to notice about the passage is the way that Marla’s mere existence compels the Narrator to stay alive. The Narrator wants to protect Marla from the space monkeys who are taking over society, suggesting that he has feelings for Marla. Yet the Narrator is afraid to act on his feelings, because he senses that Marla can’t tell the difference between himself and Tyler (with whom Marla has been having an affair). So in all, the Narrator’s motivation is a combination of guilt, remorse, love, and desire—and together, they keep him from death.

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Marla Singer Character Timeline in Fight Club

The timeline below shows where the character Marla Singer appears in Fight Club. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...occurs to him that the destruction of the skyscraper is “really about” a woman named Marla Singer, who was involved in a strange “triangle” with Tyler and the narrator. With three... (full context)
Chapter 2
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
...and encourages the narrator to cry, too. This, the Narrator says, is how he met Marla Singer. (full context)
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
...the chapter: the Narrator meeting the other “faker.” She introduces herself to the Narrator as Marla Singer. The Narrator imagines an elaborate scenario in which he angrily insists that Marla needs... (full context)
Chapter 4
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
The Narrator went to his usual testicular cancer support group and found that Marla was still there. The Narrator found that he still couldn’t relax and cry, as usual.... (full context)
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
The Narrator asks Marla why she comes to support groups, and she explains that she loves “the real experience... (full context)
Chapter 7
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...in the toilet, and remembers that the night before, he dreamed about having sex with Marla. (full context)
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...Narrator reports, Tyler told him what happened: the previous night, while the Narrator was asleep, Marla called from a hotel. Tyler answered the phone and learned that Marla, whom he’d never... (full context)
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
Instead, Tyler went to the hotel and found Marla looking weak and sleepy. He pulls Marla out of her room while the police arrive... (full context)
Chapter 8
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...possessions to live with Tyler and fight. When he’s home, he can hear Tyler and Marla having sex. Over time, Marla continues to come by to have sex with Tyler, though... (full context)
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...As the fat slowly cooks on the stove (or “renders”), Tyler tells the Narrator that Marla is “trying to hit bottom.” The Narrator, Tyler claims, is nowhere near rock bottom—just because... (full context)
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
Tyler asks the Narrator not to mention him to Marla, ever. The Narrator promises not to do so. Tyler and the Narrator then return to... (full context)
Chapter 11
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
...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.” (full context)
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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
Earlier that night, Marla came to the house with a huge package, saying that she wanted to put it... (full context)
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
When Marla came to the house that evening, she looked in the freezer and realized that Tyler... (full context)
Chapter 13
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 shows up at Marla’s hotel; Marla has called him there. Marla is calm, despite the fact that she recently... (full context)
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 continues to examine Marla’s breasts; as he does, he tries to make Marla laugh. He tells her a story... (full context)
Chapter 14
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
With the Narrator’s help, Marla has found two lumps on her breasts, and so she starts going to cancer support... (full context)
Chapter 17
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
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... (full context)
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...“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... (full context)
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Marla visits again, and the Narrator walks outside with her. As they walk, the Narrator notices... (full context)
Chapter 21
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...The Narrator is stunned—the only people on the planet who know about the birthmark are Marla and the Narrator’s father. (full context)
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
The Narrator calls Marla from Seattle and asks her if they’ve ever had sex. Marla is confused—of course they... (full context)
Chapter 22
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
The Narrator has just heard from Marla that he is Tyler Durden. He sits in his motel room, and eventually falls asleep.... (full context)
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...he’s asleep, Tyler takes over his body. Tyler’s house is rented in the Narrator’s name; Marla has been having sex with “Tyler,” and thinks of the Narrator and Tyler as the... (full context)
Chapter 23
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
The Narrator flies home as quickly as he can. At the house, Marla is sitting inside, and she says that she and the Narrator need to talk. The... (full context)
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
Hurriedly, the Narrator takes Marla out of the house to the nearest Denny’s. There, the waiter, who looks seriously injured,... (full context)
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
The Narrator tries to convince Marla, and himself, that he’s not Tyler Durden, but Marla claims, “Everyone knows you’re Tyler Durden.”... (full context)
Chapter 25
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
The Narrator goes to stay with Marla in her hotel to ensure that he won’t go to sleep and “become” Tyler. She... (full context)
Chapter 27
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...ruined condo and sees the ground, stories below him. He contemplates jumping, but then remembers Marla, and decides that she’s worth living for—he has to protect her. (full context)
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
The Narrator goes downstairs, and the doorman greets him, calling him, “Sir.” The Narrator calls Marla and tells her to meet him in the place where they first met—he warns her... (full context)
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
Shortly afterwards, the Narrator is standing with Marla in the basement of the First Methodist church, where they first ran into each other... (full context)
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
The Narrator tries to tell Marla the truth: he’s afraid Project Mayhem might try to hurt Marla. Marla is suspicious, and... (full context)
Chapter 28
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...it occurs to him that he imagined Tyler in the first place because he loved Marla, and wanted to woo her. (full context)
Chapter 29
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
The Narrator hears a yell, and suddenly Marla rushes into the room. She’s followed by the people from the testicular cancer support group.... (full context)
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
With only one minute to the explosion, Marla shouts, “I think I like you, too.” Then she corrects herself, “I like you. I... (full context)
Chapter 30
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...of his ear. The Narrator ends up in a mental hospital, and receives letters from Marla all the time. Sometimes, the Narrator gets a visit from hospital nurses or technicians, who... (full context)