Fight Club

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Tyler Durden Character Analysis

Tyler Durden is the Narrator’s imaginary alter ego, the embodiment of his “death drive” and repressed masculinity. In many ways, though, Tyler is more “real” than the Narrator himself, as suggested by the fact that he has a name and the Narrator does not. Tyler is charismatic, cunning, and ambitious, and when “the Narrator” (speaking as Tyler Durden) speaks to the members of fight club, they respect him enormously; indeed, they refer to the Narrator as “Mr. Durden” (since, from their perspective, the Narrator and Tyler are one and the same). Tyler’s lack of inhibition and his desire to be “real” leads him to embrace pain and danger at all times. Eventually, Tyler becomes more powerful than the Narrator, to the point where he takes control of the Narrator’s body for most of the time (when the Narrator is supposedly sleeping), and sends members of fight club and Project Mayhem on increasingly dangerous and destructive missions. In the end, the Narrator seems to “defeat” Tyler by shooting himself in the head—suggesting that the Narrator has embraced his “death drive” and perhaps become one with Tyler.

Tyler Durden Quotes in Fight Club

The Fight Club quotes below are all either spoken by Tyler Durden or refer to Tyler Durden. 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 1 Quotes

I know this because Tyler knows this.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tyler Durden
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel begins with the narrator and Tyler Durden, the two main characters, sitting in the top floor of a huge skyscraper, waiting for it to blow up. Tyler is in control of the situation—he’s got a gun pointed at the Narrator. There is a strange, almost psychic connection between the Narrator and Tyler: The Narrator knows that the building is going to blow up, he claims, because “Tyler knows this.”

Palahniuk won’t properly explain the nature of the connection between the Narrator and Tyler until near the end of the novel, when he reveals that the Narrator and Tyler are really the same person: the Narrator has imagined an alter ego, Tyler, who does everything the Narrator is too repressed or afraid to do in his ordinary life. The relationship between Tyler and the Narrator is a good example of the “uncanny”: the tone, in art and literature, of uneasiness, often created by the juxtaposition of two people or objects that have an affinity in spite of their obvious differences. Tyler and the Narrator are opposites in many ways (one is cautious, the other is reckless, one is charismatic, the other isn't), but they share a basic psychic connection.

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Chapter 5 Quotes

Tyler said, "I want you to hit me as hard as you can."

Related Characters: Tyler Durden (speaker), The Narrator
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

Up to this point in the book, the Narrator has only flirted with pain and suffering—by attending cancer support groups, he’s vicariously experienced the suffering of other people. The Narrator finds that a proximity to death and other people’s suffering gives him a cathartic release, and he’s able to go through his life with a sense of greater peace and satisfaction. But in this passage, the Narrator’s new friend, Tyler, takes the Narrator’s interest in pain one step farther: he asks the Narrator to cause him direct physical pain.

As we’ll come to see, Tyler wants to feel physical pain because he believes that pain is the key to being truly alive and experiencing the “real.” This is a vague, never properly defined concept that encompasses a sense of aliveness, energy, physicality, and visceral sensation that, according to Tyler, is sorely lacking in modern America. Tyler, and later the Narrator, gravitate toward pain and sacrifice because they believe it can lead them to a higher state of consciousness—but whether they’re right, or just fetishizing pain for its own sake, Palahniuk leaves to readers to decide.

Chapter 6 Quotes

The first night we fought was a Sunday night, and Tyler hadn't shaved all weekend so my knuckles burned raw from his weekend beard. Lying on our backs in the parking lot, staring up at the one star that came through the streetlights, I asked Tyler what he'd been fighting. Tyler said, his father.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tyler Durden
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Tyler claims that he enjoys fighting because doing so allows him to vent his hatred of his father. Tyler describes his father in vague terms that suggest that they barely know one another, and certainly don’t get along. Strangely, by experiencing pain himself, and by doling out pain to other people, Tyler feels better—he’s found an outlet for his hatred and frustration.

Tyler’s explanation of why he enjoys fight club suggests a few things. First, it suggests that the purpose of fight club can be more positive than mere masochism. The members of fight club aren’t just naturally violent people: they turn to violence and self-destruction as a means of getting over their problems in life. Tyler’s behavior also suggests that fight club is a way of rebelling against the traditional institutions of society—institutions which have largely failed their alleged beneficiaries (for example, the family doesn’t provide stability or happiness for Tyler). At the same time, fight club could also be interpreted as a replacement for family and father—at many points, the Narrator compares Tyler to his (the Narrator’s) own father.

Chapter 9 Quotes

"You have to see," Tyler says, "how the first soap was made of heroes."
Think about the animals used in product testing.
Think about the monkeys shot into space.
"Without their death, their pain, without their sacrifice," Tyler says, "we would have nothing."

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tyler Durden (speaker)
Related Symbols: Soap
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Tyler explains that soap, one of the key symbols of the novel, was originally produced through the practice of human sacrifice. The Celts sacrificed victims to their gods, and eventually, the remains of these victims trickled down into the river water, where chemical reactions produced lye that could be used to clean clothing.

Tyler’s brief history of soap suggests a couple things. First, it suggests that civilization arises from violence and brutality. On the surface of things, there could be nothing more innocent than a bar of soap—and yet, if you study its history, the bar of soap was only produced because of disgusting, sometimes brutal processes. Furthermore, Tyler’s speech suggests that he believes sacrifice to be an important value. People in modern America have largely turned away from the concepts of sacrifice and duty—they think that they can coast through life, buying products and enjoying themselves. As Tyler sees it, life is always most fulfilling and rewarding when people sacrifice their own happiness for a greater good.

Tyler’s speech also hints at the contradictions in his worldview. The human sacrifices who “created” the first soap didn’t go willingly to their deaths. So perhaps Tyler’s talk of duty and sacrifice is meant to foreshadow the unintentional pain and violence that will result from his actions—violence which perhaps isn’t as important or crucial to human progress as he claims here.

Chapter 15 Quotes

After the union president had slugged Tyler to the floor, after mister president saw Tyler wasn't fighting back, his honor with his big Cadillac body bigger and stronger than he would ever really need, his honor hauled his wingtip back and kicked Tyler in the ribs and Tyler laughed. His honor shot the wingtip into Tyler's kidneys after Tyler curled into a ball, but Tyler was still laughing.
"Get it out," Tyler said. "Trust me. You'll feel a lot better. You'll feel great."

Related Characters: Tyler Durden (speaker)
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tyler Durden blackmails the president of a projectionist union into paying him monthly checks forever. Tyler has been splicing single frames of pornography into family movies—if Tyler were ever to tell the press about what he’d done, then the projectionists would be forced to recall millions of dollars worth of film. The projectionists’ union is better off paying Tyler some hush money instead.

The president of the union is so furious with Tyler that he punches him in the face. Tyler, who is, of course, used to getting punched, just laughs and tells the president to “get it out.” Tyler’s behavior is mocking, proving that he’s not intimidated by the president’s violence. And yet there’s also an almost positive aspect to Tyler’s behavior—he seems to be recruiting the president for membership in fight club, urging him to give in to his inner aggression and desire for visceral violence.

Note also the language the Narrator uses to describe the union president himself—he’s built like a “Cadillac,” with fancy “wingtip” shoes and a body that is “bigger and stronger than he would ever really need.” This again emphasizes the commodification of modern society (even a man himself is like the expensive car he owns) and the supposed emasculation of modern men. The union president has a strong, masculine body, but he’s never “needed” it in his comfortable, complacent life—until now, when he gets into a real fight and, it’s suggested, finally gets in touch with something “real.”

Chapter 16 Quotes

When Tyler invented Project Mayhem, Tyler said the goal of Project Mayhem had nothing to do with other people. Tyler didn't care if other people got hurt or not. The goal was to teach each man in the project that he had the power to control history. We, each of us, can take control of the world.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tyler Durden
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

Tyler eventually founds a secret society within a secret society: Project Mayhem. Where fight club was focused on confronting the “real” through individual pain and aggression, Project Mayhem is designed to channel that aggression outwards. As we’ll see, Tyler uses his recruits to sabotage businesses, cause disease and chaos, and even kill people.

The founding of Project Mayhem is a major turning point in the novel because it shows Tyler becoming more reckless, more violent, and arguably more fascistic in his methods. Tyler is indifferent, according to this passage, about who gets hurt in the course of Project Mayhem. He’s indifferent to the suffering of his own followers and, it’s implied, to the suffering of “regular people” in society. This is no longer about individual “enlightenment” through fighting and suffering, but instead is about a violently enforced “collective enlightenment”—which is really just Tyler imposing his ideas on others, whether they want them or not.

Chapter 22 Quotes

"What it is," Tyler says, "is we have police who come to fight at fight club and really like it. We have newspaper reporters and law clerks and lawyers, and we know everything before it's going to happen."
We were going to be shut down.
"At least in Seattle," Tyler says.
I ask what did Tyler do about it.
"What did we do about it," Tyler says.
We called an Assault Committee meeting.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tyler Durden (speaker)
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Narrator slowly becomes aware that he and Tyler Durden are the same person. He’s “speaking” to Tyler, but—because of his recent conversation with Marla—he now knows that people regard him and Tyler as the same person. The Narrator comes to understand that he and Tyler share a body, but represent two different sides of the mind: the conscious and the unconscious.

Notice the use of dialogue and quotation marks in this scene. Tyler explains some of the things that Project Mayhem has accomplished recently, but even when he asks the Narrator a question about it, the Narrator seems to know the answer already—because, deep down, the Narrator does have access to Tyler’s mind. The passage is important because it gives a new, clever meaning to the novel’s repeated phrase, “I know this because Tyler knows this.” The Narrator and Tyler know the same things because, quite simply, they share a mind. The Narrator is defined by his conscious mind, while Tyler represents the Narrator’s unconscious, but—just as human beings can access their own unconscious thoughts in dreams—the Narrator can still grasp some of Tyler’s thoughts.

Chapter 26 Quotes

The three ways to make napalm. I knew Tyler was going to kill my boss. The second I smelled gasoline on my hands, when I said I wanted out of my job, I was giving him permission. Be my guest.
Kill my boss.
Oh, Tyler.
I know a computer blew up.
I know this because Tyler knows this.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tyler Durden, The Narrator’s boss
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, The Narrator becomes aware that his boss has been murdered—and, moreover, he (or rather, Tyler, his alter ego) is to blame for his death. The Narrator remembers smelling gasoline on his hands a few nights ago—he must have murdered his boss just beforehand.

As the novel progresses, the Narrator takes more and more responsibility for Tyler’s actions. At first, Tyler seems to be an entirely different person from the Narrator, but eventually, we learn that Tyler and the Narrator are the same. The Narrator has fantasized about killing his boss, and—via Tyler, the embodiment of the Narrator’s repressed desires—now he’s finally killed him. The repeated line, “I know this because Tyler knows this” has come to suggest that the Narrator bears at least some of the guilt for murdering his boss, even if it was the “Tyler half” of him that acted. Furthermore, the Narrator begins to see that Tyler’s motives for killing people as a part of Project Mayhem don’t necessarily have much to do with “fighting civilization”—they’re often far pettier and more personal (here, Tyler seems to kill the Narrator’s boss simply because he doesn't like him).

Chapter 29 Quotes

Tyler says, "The last thing we have to do is your martyrdom thing. Your big death thing."

Related Characters: Tyler Durden (speaker), The Narrator
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Tyler decides to die—and therefore, he wants the Narrator to die, too. Tyler has arranged for “them” to die in a big explosion, masterminded by Project Mayhem’s space monkeys. Why does Tyler want to die now?

Ultimately, Tyler knows that the best leaders lead by example. Project Mayhem, much like fight club, is based on the principle of the fetishization of violence and death—to be a member is to embrace death. By killing himself, then, Tyler will finally embrace death and—perhaps—achieve enlightenment (or he’ll just be dead—a much more likely possibility). Tyler hopes to be a shining example to his followers, encouraging them to embrace violence all the more eagerly, and therefore take it upon themselves to destroy civilization by any means necessary. Tyler’s decision to eliminate himself also indicates that Project Mayhem has become self-sustaining: its project is chaos and violence, so it doesn’t even need a leader. (And with his death, he’ll also eliminate any possibility of the Narrator undermining his plans.)

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Tyler Durden Character Timeline in Fight Club

The timeline below shows where the character Tyler Durden appears in Fight Club. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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A man name Tyler Durden sticks a gun down the throat of an unnamed Narrator. The narrator contemplates the... (full context)
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The narrator and Tyler are sitting on the 192nd floor of a skyscraper, and the narrator thinks about what... (full context)
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The Narrator thinks back on everything that’s happened between Tyler and himself. It occurs to him that the destruction of the skyscraper is “really about”... (full context)
Chapter 3
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The Narrator now explains how he came to meet Tyler Durden. The Narrator thinks about his old job, a job that led him to travel... (full context)
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During his work as a projectionist, Tyler would steal slides from movies—if there was a naked woman shown in the film, Tyler... (full context)
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In secret, Tyler liked to splice single frames from pornographic films into family movies—sometimes, there would be single... (full context)
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One day, the Narrator and Tyler met. The Narrator was on vacation, sitting at a nude beach and taking a nap.... (full context)
Chapter 5
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With nowhere to go, the Narrator calls Tyler Durden and explains what happened to him. Tyler is amused, and agrees to meet the... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...go back to their regular lives. Fight club began, the Narrator remembers, when he and Tyler began hitting each other for fun. (full context)
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The Narrator describes attending a meeting of fight club with Tyler. The members meet underneath a bar, and every week more people show up. Tyler barks... (full context)
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The Narrator flashes back to the night that he and Tyler invented fight club—the night Tyler asked the Narrator to punch him. Neither the Narrator nor... (full context)
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...forward—fight club has become a popular, secret group, and more people join every week. As Tyler points out at every meeting, the fight club only has new members because someone broke... (full context)
Chapter 7
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The Narrator wakes up in Tyler’s dilapidated home, where he’s been crashing lately. He notices a condom floating in the toilet,... (full context)
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Later, the Narrator reports, Tyler told him what happened: the previous night, while the Narrator was asleep, Marla called from... (full context)
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Instead, Tyler went to the hotel and found Marla looking weak and sleepy. He pulls Marla out... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...pants. He leaves, thinking about how he’s given up his worldly possessions to live with Tyler and fight. When he’s home, he can hear Tyler and Marla having sex. Over time,... (full context)
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To wash the Narrator’s bloody pants, Tyler teaches the Narrator how to make soap. From his fridge, he pulls out a big... (full context)
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Tyler asks the Narrator not to mention him to Marla, ever. The Narrator promises not to... (full context)
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Suddenly, Tyler kisses the back of the Narrator’s hand. Lye (a caustic solution used in making soap),... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Tyler has just poured lye on The Narrator’s wet hand. The pain is excruciating, but Tyler... (full context)
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Tyler then pours vinegar over the Narrator’s hand, neutralizing the burn of the lye. The Narrator... (full context)
Chapter 10
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The Narrator assists Tyler during his work as a waiter in a hotel. Tyler urinates in a dish of... (full context)
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At another point, the Narrator recalls, Tyler worked as a waiter at a fancy dinner party; afterwards, he left a note saying,... (full context)
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The scene returns to the hotel, where Tyler is urinating in soup. Tyler and the Narrator serve the soup to a convention of... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Over time, the Narrator learns that Tyler makes good money selling his soaps to fancy stores—people say his soap is the best... (full context)
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Tyler and the Narrator sit by a used car lot, surrounded by old vehicles. The Narrator... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...to talk about it.” The founder of this group, Bob says, is a “great man,” “Tyler Durden.” (full context)
Chapter 13
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...called him there. Marla is calm, despite the fact that she recently found out what Tyler was doing with her collagen. She says she’ll forgive the Narrator for the collagen incident... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Meanwhile, the police begin calling the Narrator at Tyler’s house, asking about his condominium explosion. Over the phone, a detective explains that a homemade... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Tyler meets with the head of his projectionist union chapter, and learns that he’s being let... (full context)
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Tyler encourages the Narrator to have a similar conversation with the president of the hotel where... (full context)
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The Narrator describes how the head of the projectionist union chapter punched Tyler in fury—Tyler just laughed and encouraged the head of the union to “get it all... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...papers that people have bombed a skyscraper. This was all a part of Project Mayhem, Tyler’s latest project. The first rule of Project Mayhem is that you don’t talk about Project... (full context)
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Tyler gives out weekly homework assignments for Project Mayhem, all of which involve creating chaos, anarchy,... (full context)
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Tyler invented Project Mayhem at a fight club meeting. The Narrator fought a new member and... (full context)
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In the days following their breakfast, Tyler gets the Narrator to print the “rules of Project Mayhem,” and begins welcoming people into... (full context)
Chapter 17
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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... (full context)
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...cancer, but she wants to talk about flowers. The Narrator is careful not to mention Tyler at all. (full context)
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The Narrator looks for Tyler Durden everywhere, but never finds him. He finds himself walking around late at night, sometimes... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...his hands. Before he can think about this further, he gets a phone call from Tyler, telling him that Project Mayhem is waiting outside for him with a car. The Narrator... (full context)
Chapter 19
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The mechanic goes on to tell Jack that he’s been running errands for Tyler, picking up fat. He speaks in phrases that the Narrator recognizes hearing from Tyler for... (full context)
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...medical waste incinerator, he finds bags of human fat. He’ll take the fat back to Tyler’s house and make it into bars of soap, sold for 20 dollars apiece. The mechanic... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...man called Raymond Hessel, pointing a gun at his head. The Narrator’s homework assignment from Tyler is to make 12 “human sacrifices” and get 12 driver’s licenses to prove it. The... (full context)
Chapter 21
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The Narrator travels across the country, trying to find Tyler Durden. He goes through various airports and explores bars late at night. Every time, the... (full context)
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...a broken nose who calls him “Sir.” The Narrator asks the bartender if he’s met Tyler Durden before, and the bartender insists, “You stopped in last week, Mr. Durden.” The bartender... (full context)
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...making her mother into soap. Stunned, the Narrator asks Marla to say his name—she says, “Tyler Durden,” the person who gave her the scar on her hand. (full context)
Chapter 22
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The Narrator has just heard from Marla that he is Tyler Durden. He sits in his motel room, and eventually falls asleep. Suddenly, he wakes up—Tyler... (full context)
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Tyler continues to tell the Narrator about Project Mayhem—there are chapters all over the country. Tyler... (full context)
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Tyler continues to tell the Narrator about “their” plans to attack the police. They attacked the... (full context)
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When the Narrator is awake, Tyler explains, he’s in control—but when he’s asleep, Tyler takes over his body. Tyler’s house is... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...the waiter, who looks seriously injured, greets the Narrator and calls him “Sir.” He offers Tyler and Marla food, free of charge, which Marla accepts. (full context)
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The Narrator tries to convince Marla, and himself, that he’s not Tyler Durden, but Marla claims, “Everyone knows you’re Tyler Durden.” The Narrator realizes why he started... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...Mayhem march toward the Narrator, chanting, “Prepare to evict the member.” The Narrator shouts, “I’m Tyler Durden,” but the fight club members throw him out and lock the door. (full context)
Chapter 25
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...with Marla in her hotel to ensure that he won’t go to sleep and “become” Tyler. She suggests that they go bowling—they won’t be able to sleep, and therefore, Tyler won’t... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...that his boss is dead from a freak computer explosion. The Narrator knows this, “because Tyler knows this.” The Narrator thinks back to the other night, when Tyler called him on... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...a man at a hotel. The Narrator is horrified, but tells Marla that it was Tyler who committed such a crime. Marla adds, “And you don’t have cancer, either!” Suddenly, everyone... (full context)
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...I like you.” The Narrator leaves the building, thinking, “I have to take care of Tyler Durden.” (full context)
Chapter 28
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The man whom the Narrator (Tyler) shot at the hotel was named Patrick Madden, and he was a government official, the... (full context)
Chapter 29
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The Narrator wakes up in Tyler’s house—Tyler is standing over him. Tyler tells the Narrator, “The last thing we have to... (full context)
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Moments later, Tyler and the Narrator are in the top floor of the skyscraper (exactly where they were... (full context)
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...They shout, “Stop!” and “Let us help you!” The Narrator yells out that he’s killing Tyler, not himself. (full context)
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The Narrator realizes what’s happened: previously, Tyler and his team planned to blow up the building using a bomb made from two... (full context)