Study Guide

Fight Club Summary

By Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club Summary

Fight Club starts off with our nameless narrator held hostage with a gun in his mouth atop a building rigged with explosives set to go off at any moment. Yeah, The Baby-Sitters Club this ain't. Starting from this dire situation, our narrator decides to tell us how he got to this point.

It starts where most great stories start: testicular cancer support group. Even though our narrator attends a variety of support groups, he has no cancer. Just Issues. With a capital "I." Apparently, going to the support groups and looking certain death in the face helps our narrator overcome his insomnia. But then a problem walks in—a problem named Marla Singer. Our narrator can't sleep when Marla Singer's around. She exposes his lies.

On a business trip, our narrator takes a side trip to a nude beach where he makes a new friend: Tyler Durden. Tyler's kind of a hippie Zen philosopher type. When he gets home, our narrator discovers that his apartment has exploded. Hmmm, he probably shouldn't have left the oven on. Anyway, needing a place to stay, he crashes with Tyler Durden. They go out drinking and beat the crap out of each other in a bar parking lot. You know, guy stuff. From this fateful encounter, fight club is born.

Between fight clubs, our narrator works with Tyler on his night job as a waiter at the Pressman Hotel. There, they do things like pee in soups and spit in food. At Tyler's other job, he splices frames of pornography into children's movies. In between jobs, they steal human fat from liposuction clinics, turn it into soap, and sell it back to the rich. So yeah, totally normal activities.

Meanwhile, Tyler and Marla Singer start sleeping together, much to our narrator's dismay. She takes away from his time with Tyler—not okay. Next up, Tyler marks our narrator's hand with a chemical burn kiss caused by mixing lye and water. From there, their subversive pranks grow into Project Mayhem, an organized effort to topple the country's social structure. Tyler recruits men from fight club to live with him, where they work on a variety of "homework" assignments designed to spur anarchy, like creating snarky bumper stickers or performing human sacrifices.

Our narrator gets pushed to the side as Tyler takes over. Fight clubs are opening up across the country, and our narrator didn't have anything to do with it. He's feeling left out and during a pity party on the phone with Marla, he asks her what his name is. Her answer? Wait for it—Tyler Durden.

Cue gasp.

From here on out, our narrator scrambles around to undo all the damage Tyler's done. He tries—and fails—to disband fight club. And he can only stand helplessly by as Big Bob from the testicular cancer group, now a member of Project Mayhem, is shot dead. He has only one choice: kill Tyler.

Now we're back where we started, although the perspective is a little different. We know the narrator has the gun in his own mouth. Marla, with her support group peeps in tow, races to the top of the building to tell our narrator that they can help him. Life is worth living.

But he pulls the trigger anyway.

At an indeterminable time in the future, our narrator lies in a hospital bed, thinking he's in heaven. Tyler's dead. Life is worth living again. But the angels have black eyes and missing teeth and look suspiciously like a lot of the men our narrator knew from fight club. It seems that although Tyler is dead, Project Mayhem lives forever.