Study Guide

Fight Club

by Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club Summary

Extended Summary

When Fight Club opens, the narrator and Tyler Durden are at the top of the Parker-Morris Building, the tallest building in the world. Tyler Durden has a gun in his mouth. Tyler and the narrator had together turned the gun into a silencer by drilling holes into the barrel. Tyler and the narrator have also made nitroglycerin and napalm. The narrator explains several accepted ways to make nitroglycerin from household products like sawdust and paraffin, though “paraffin has never, ever worked for me.” Now, together, they are waiting for an explosion that will knock over the Parker-Morris Building and destroy the national museum, Tyler’s real target. The narrator reflects that all of this anarchy has something to do with Marla Singer.

The narrator tells his story, which begins with a case of narcolepsy. The doctor refuses the narrator’s requests for medication and tells him to go to a support group to see real pain. So the narrator goes to Remaining Men Together, a support group for men who have testicular cancer. These men find strength by sharing their pain and experiences. The narrator meets Bob, who was once a weight lifter. Now he has had his testicles removed and he has breasts because he takes testosterone supplements and his body has increased the estrogen supply to compensate. However, the narrator finds that by crying in Bob’s arms, he is able to sleep at night like a baby. For the narrator, this embrace allows him to lose all hope, and “losing all hope is freedom.” Before long, the narrator is going to support groups for cancer, brain parasites, and tuberculosis, and he is doing guided meditation.

Marla Singer is a "tourist." Like the narrator, she does not have testicular cancer or any other disease. She finds that attending these support groups makes her feel alive. The support groups offer a “real experience of death.” However, the narrator cannot cry when another faker is present. He challenges Marla, but she refuses to leave. They end up splitting the week so they will not see each other anymore.

During this period, the narrator also meets Tyler Durden. The narrator’s job requires a great deal of travel, which does not help his narcolepsy. He goes to meetings his boss does not want to attend. He looks into automobile malfunctions and calculates the cost of a recall. If a recall costs more than the projected expense of out-of-court settlements, they let people crash and burn. The narrator considers this knowledge his job security. On one trip he goes to a nude beach, where he meets Tyler Durden.

Tyler is pulling driftwood onto the beach. He arranges the wood so it sticks out of the sand and projects a shadow in the shape of a hand. For one minute of every day, that shadow will look perfect. Tyler tells the narrator that the minute of perfection is worth waiting for. However, Tyler is not an artist. He works as a waiter at the prestigious Pressman Hotel. At night, he works as a projection booth operator. In addition to changing reels during films, Tyler splices single frames of pornography into children’s films. For the space of a 1/60th of a second, viewers see a penis or vagina. They may not know that they saw it, but it was there. As Tyler and the narrator leave the beach, they exchange contact information.

Exchanging contact information turns out to have been a good idea. While on a business trip, the narrator’s luggage is kept for inspection because it was vibrating. He arrives home to find that his apartment has exploded. Everything that he owns—everything that made him complete—has been destroyed. He calls Tyler to go out for beers and to ask for a place to stay. Tyler agrees, on one condition. He asks to be punched. Though reluctant, the narrator agrees. When they exchange punches, they feel a rush. As it turns out, other men want to feel this rush as well. Soon they have formed the first fight club, and before long the narrator is going to work with black eyes, bruises, and even a hole in his cheek that will not...

(The entire section is 1646 words.)