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Post-Modernism in Fight Club

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Jennifer Strugach

on 20 January 2014

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Transcript of Post-Modernism in Fight Club

Post-Modernism in Literature
Important Questions
So What?
Thesis
What is the value of Post-Modernist criticism?

From a literary perspective, post-modernism is a useful tool used to examine a text. Post-modernist criticism challenges the reader to re-evaluate their morals and to look at society as the broken institution that it is, not the glorified wholesome figure it ‘once was’. Post-modernism poses the question of what creates the identity of a person or of a society. When the reader looks at post-modernism, it makes them separate the true human experience apart from the structures that society has built around it.

Supporting Quotes:
“If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?” (Palahniuk 33)

Important Questions
How does Palahniuk create a novel that omits a key part of the Narrator’s identity until the end?
The Narrator is a very broken character whose mind works in sporadic intervals. Palahniuk uses discrete foreshadowing that goes undetected to the unknowing reader. Such examples include the Narrator ‘speaking’ to Tyler, or recanting what Tyler has told him. Readers are accustomed to such third person interactions being characters separate from the narrator of a story, so Tyler’s identity is accepted without questioning.
Supporting Quotes:
• “One morning, there’s the dead jellyfish of a used condom floating in
the toilet. This is how Tyler meets Marla.” (Palahniuk 56)
• “All night long, I dreamed I was humping Marla Singer…I wake up
alone in my own bed, and the door to Tyler’s room is closed"
(Palahniuk 56)
• “After Tyler and Marla had sex about ten times, Tyler says, Marla said
she wanted to get pregnant. Marla said she wanted to have Tyler’s abortion.” (Palahniuk 59)

Important Questions
How does Fight Club contradict generally accepted truths?
Through the criticism of materialism along with questioning the development of the human experience, Fight Club contradicts generally accepted truths and societal ideals such as the American Dream.

Supporting Quotes:
“Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.” (Palahniuk 44)

“Maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer, maybe self-destruction is the answer.”

“Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.”

How would the story change if it were told from another character’s perspective? How would it change if it were told from Marla’s perspective?

“My boss sends me home because of all the dried blood on my pants, and I am overjoyed. The hole punched through my cheek doesn’t ever heal. I’m going to work, and my punched-out eye sockets are two swollen up black bagels around the little piss holes I have left to see through.” (Palahniuk 63)

“Ok. You f*ck me, then snub me. You love me, you hate me. You show me a sensitive side, then you turn into a total a**hole. Is this a pretty accurate description of our relationship, Tyler?” (Palahniuk #)

“If we are questioning/resisting the methods we use to build knowledge (science, religion, language), then traditional literary notions are also thrown into freeplay.”
Through conflict, Chuck Palahniuk compares societal ideals alongside post-modernist ideals in Fight Club in order to highlight the human experience.
Post-Modernism in Fight Club
Post-modernism is a literary school of criticism that...
rejects societal mores
seeks to provoke the reader into challenging their pre-conceived notions about society and their identity

What is Post-Modernism?
Elements of Post-Modernism in Fight Club
• Modern era
• Heavy emphasis on consumerism and how it defines us
• ‘Technoculture and hyperreality’
• Complex narrative that destroys the concept of a single identity
• Mental illness
• ‘Temporal distortion’
• ‘Maximalism”

Post-Modernism in Fight Club
How does the stark contrast between the narrator and Tyler exemplify the criticism that postmodernism offers upon society?

The Narrator is made to be a passive, bland character that lives a sedentary life. His alter ego, Tyler Durden, lives in the fantasy world that the Narrator unconsciously wishes he could. Together, they make this a reality. Tyler Durden seeks to stir chaos and destroy society’s structure, which is a sharp contrast to the Narrator’s typical worker life. The two characters are foils for one another, the difference between modernism and postmodernism.


Important Questions
Conflicts in Fight Club
Man vs. Self

The narrator faces a severe identity crisis and creates a new personality with whom he fights a surreal mental battle with.

Man vs. Man

In order for men to be able to feel in their world, they must resort to violence against one another.


Man vs. Society

As a whole, this text outlines the conflict that a typical man, a typical Narrator, has against society. A member of the generation that has lost their spirit, Palahniuk uses post-modernism in order to painfully spell out the conflict between man and society and how the spirit, or human experience, has been lost.
Full transcript