The First Rule of Fight Club…
is you don’t talk about fight club. The first rule of being a man is…well…society has created too many rules to count and they are ever changing. These socially constructed rules have locked men into the ongoing existence of the race to attain material things, and to act against their very nature. Society has always been responsible for constructing identity and over time the identity of men has changed, due to a society in constant flux. At the first reading of Fight Club (or watching the movie), one comes away with the idea that Tyler Durden is simply a minimalist who is trying to save the narrator from losing his true self to material possessions. “The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything.” The narrator, after the mysterious blowing up (or out) of his apartment, concedes to this ownership, “That was my whole life. Everything, the lamps, the dishes, the rugs were me. The dishes in the cabinets were me. The plants were me. The television was me. It was me that blew up.” He had an epiphany—he became what he had spent his “whole life” collecting and now that was gone—along with who he thought he was. Enter Tyler Durden.
Digging deeper a different understanding occurs about what is really going on.
It becomes apparent that Tyler is the manifestation, within the narrator’s mind, of what a man should be outside of the constraints of society. Tyler becomes the expression of his other self—the one who wants to feel, to live, and if not, then to die. The mild-mannered narrator and the dangerous anarchistic side of his personality are so diverse; he actually believes at first, that he is two distinctly separate people. Why? The narrator’s soul is dying under the want and need to be what society demands. By removing the cultural influences that control our lives, Tyler actually means for the narrator to live a life with total abandon. Fighting other men is merely the first step. “You aren’t alive like you’re alive at fight club.” Step into the ring and ignore the rules that dictate how men should behave: with civility toward one another. Underneath lies the thought, “You wonder…about what you’re capable of doing against another man.” Muscle to muscle, bone-to-bone, and testosterone-to-testosterone…the basic ideology of masculinity. Manliness runs much deeper than that.
Fighting is the first step geared to loosen the hold that society has on men. “Last week, we could’ve filled another four fight clubs.” This is a clear indication how rampant the issue has become. Men have a deep desire to reclaim their identities and take over the world—their world. Many men, in the book and in life, are hurting and seeking a life that is more fulfilling than what can be found in the boardroom. Men are dissatisfied with society and how society views them. Tyler knowing this creates “Project Mayhem,” intended to tear down the American social structure, which is detrimental to the soul of a man. The fundamental objective of “Project Mayhem” is to set man free from the dictates of society. Using followers from his fight club, Tyler guides his disciples of “Project Mayhem” down a strict path in order to set them free—a type of salvation.
By allowing our identity to be formed within the restraints of society, we like the narrator, feel torn, conflicted, and unsettled. “We have a great war of the spirit.” We find the narrator waging war against himself—against Tyler. Knowing that deep within himself, is the desire to live with abandon, yet struggling against the image he sees portrayed with the other men who surround him, who do follow the rules of society, he attempts to kill Tyler by pulling the trigger. “Only through destroying myself can I discover the greatest power of my spirit” It’s a risk brought about by “spiritual depression.” However, a risk he intends to take. Similar to the risks taken everyday in extreme sports: bull riding, cave diving, base-jumping, or rock climbing to name a few. Risks that push physical limits as well as the expectations society sets for playing it safe.
Rather than following the dictates of society for who or what a man (or a woman for that matter) should be, “We, each of us, can take control of the world.” A man (or woman) can take back the control of his own world. Taking the first step—stop trying to control everything and just let go. Only by living with total abandon can we set ourselves free to be the man or woman that we were created to be.