Fight Club

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Soap Symbol Icon

Tyler Durden is an enthusiastic maker of soap; he renders fat (sometimes human fat) and converts it into luxurious, expensive soaps that he sells for a hefty profit. As Tyler explains, the process of making soap is incredibly brutal: animals have to be slaughtered, bodies have to be harvested, just to produce a state of cleanliness. Soap—not just the object but the process of making it—is a symbol of the brutality and violence of the “real world,” a world that most people would prefer to ignore. Furthermore, soap is a symbol of the pain and sacrifice needed to keep the world turning, and of the invisible dirtiness involved in the way that people keep themselves clean.

Soap Quotes in Fight Club

The Fight Club quotes below all refer to the symbol of Soap. 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 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.

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Soap Symbol Timeline in Fight Club

The timeline below shows where the symbol Soap appears in Fight Club. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
To wash the Narrator’s bloody pants, Tyler teaches the Narrator how to make soap. From his fridge, he pulls out a big plastic bag full of fat, which he... (full context)
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...The Narrator promises not to do so. Tyler and the Narrator then return to making soap: they harden the rendered fat in the fridge. Tyler points out a layer of glycerin... (full context)
Chapter 11
Consumerism, Perfection, and Modernity Theme Icon
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
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. (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 that he’s been making a fortune with Marla’s collagen—he uses it to make soap. (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
...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... (full context)
Chapter 19
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
...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 mentions that he’s been asked to look for... (full context)
Chapter 21
Masculinity in Modern Society Theme Icon
Rebellion and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...in the hotel, and says she’s still angry with him for making her mother into soap. Stunned, the Narrator asks Marla to say his name—she says, “Tyler Durden,” the person who... (full context)
Chapter 23
Death, Pain, and the “Real” Theme Icon
Repression and the Unconscious Mind Theme Icon
...freezer, and suspects that there are dead bodies inside—casualties of Project Mayhem, being converted into soap and glycerin. (full context)