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...
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