Study Guide

Fight Club

By Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club Introduction

We've noticed something weird around Shmoop HQ lately. See, people are walking around with black eyes and bloodstained ties. And there was a human tooth in the water fountain. Oh, and then we found this piece of paper in the copy machine: "The first rule of Fight Club is... stop cracking jokes about the first rule of Fight Club. That is so 1999."

In case you totally missed the 90s, Fight Club is a cult favorite novel that was later adapted into the visually stunning 1999 feature film, directed by David Fincher (who also adapted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter. Talk about street cred.

Although it wasn't the first piece he wrote, the 1996 Fight Club was Chuck Palahniuk's first published novel. Unable to get his first novel, Invisible Monsters, published because it was a wee bit too disturbing, Palahniuk set out to write something even more controversial. Palahniuk expanded a short story he had written into a full-length novel, and Fight Club was born kicking and screaming into the world, ready to take names. After achieving success with Fight Club (in no small part thanks to the movie), Palahniuk has gone on to author twelve additional novels.

Fight Club itself focuses on an unreliable narrator, his relationship with an enigmatic man named Tyler Durden, and their creation of fight club, an underground boxing club which evolves into the anarchistic organization Project Mayhem. Project Mayhem intends to tear down the American social structure, replacing puffy-shirted bureaucrats with testosterone-fueled manly men as the ruling class.

Palahniuk definitely succeeded at writing something controversial. The book has been accused of having dangerous anti-consumerist themes, and the movie, a faithful adaptation, was called "a fascist rhapsody posing as a metaphor of liberation." (source). Both the novel and the movie were so successful at tapping into human emotion, that an assortment of real-world copycat fight clubs popped up across the world. So, yeah, Fight Club was the start of something big for this disaffected generation.

Even if you've seen the movie, you have to read the book. Not only are a couple key plot points different, but it really gets you inside the fractured mind(s) of our troubled protagonist. It's a fascinating place to visit, even if we wouldn't want to live there.

What is Fight Club About and Why Should I Care?

Before people identified themselves as part of the 99%, and before people Occupied Wall Street, there was Fight Club. Palahniuk's 1996 novel was a kick in the teeth, distilling the frustrations of the American working class—specifically the American working class male—into its purest, most primal essence.

The men in Fight Club are sick of being treated as second-class citizens. They want a fighting chance at success. They want health care. They want to not be treated like slaves. They want to be defined by something other than their job title and their bank account. And they've realized that none of this will ever happen. This frustration and helplessness still exists today. As a result, Fight Club is more relevant than ever, and it still packs a punch.

Fight Club Resources

Websites

Join the Cult
Ready to worship Palahniuk the way the space monkeys worship Tyler Durden? Head on over to the official Palahniuk website, The Cult.

Movie or TV Productions

We Are Joe's Movie Adaptation
Palahniuk has opened his chakras to the awareness the movie has brought to his work, and he includes all you need to know about the movie on his own website.

500 Club
Fight Club is on IMDb's list of top 500 films. Where do you rank the movie?

"Fight Club in 30 Seconds, Re-Enacted By Bunnies"
Enough said. (Be careful, not for the young'uns)

Articles and Interviews

Prehistoric Palahniuk
One of the first documented interviews with Palahniuk is full of Fight Club and philosophy.

How Do We Love Thee?
This interview not only reveals Palahniuk's romantic sensibilities, but also how the heck to pronounce his last name.

It's 3AM, We Must Be Lonely
In this interview with 3AM Magazine, Palahniuk reveals his opinions on the Fight Club movie, as well as other potential book-to-movie adaptations in the works.

Video

Talking About Fight Club
Edward Norton and Brad Pitt talk about the themes in Fight Club while resisting the urge to punch the interviewer in the face.

"Tyler is a Projection"
See how Fight Club transitions from page to screen in the movie trailer. It's a little intense.

Images

"This is Cancer, Right?"
See how Helena Bonham-Carter looks as Marla making her big entrance.

Need a Hug?
Snuggle up in Bob's bosom and let all the tears come out.

Leader of the Cult
Chuck Palahniuk is the guy who started it all. Looks like he still has all his teeth.