Because their individuality is suppressed and their identities are controlled, the young males attempt to escape the society. Both protagonists understand their existence in the society, yet they struggle to find their true identities. The unnamed narrator in Fight Club creates his own hyperrealistic world within the society by creating a bold alter ego, Tyler. In midst of the narrator’s pre-Tyler identity crisis where “everything is so far away [like] a copy of a copy of a copy”, the narrator seeks comfort from attending cancer support groups (Fight 21). The support groups were better than real life because he was free to be someone else who was approaching death and had a sense of authentic reality. Because of this experience, alter ego Tyler Durden creates fight club as a place where men could “get [their] hands on everything in the world that didn’t work” and fight “something they’re too scared to fight” (Fight 54). At fight club, the men could be stronger, fearless versions of themselves and physically fight off their problems. Fight club provides “the formation of a new identity apart from the one mandated by capitalist society” and “thus opens up a separate space that is divorced from the dependency and servility of the (capitalist) world of exchange” (Joseph Suglia). Similarly, Victor Mancini in Choke attempts to escape society by exploiting his job at Colonial Dunsboro and “establish[ing] [his] own alternate reality” (Choke 31). Alex Blazer relates Colonial Dunsboro, the living history museum, to the hyperrealistic society and points out how “we are all tourists in our own lives, seeking pleasure from pretend worlds in every aspect of our lives” (147). Although Victor just immerses himself back into a hyperrealistic society at Colonial Dunsboro, he is able to become a character and a ‘someone’, in contrast to not having an identity at all. Victor also seems to grasp reality better at Dunsboro, especially when he points out how the “jetliner roared low” during a scripted show, “drowning out [the governor’s] little speech” (Choke 192). His attitude and actions at Colonial Dunsboro, along with the general understanding of how a “living history museum also kills objective reality” manage to all slightly contradict one another while proving the same point; Victor attempts to escape the oppressive society by immersing himself in an alternate reality that resembles a more hyperrealistic society (Alex Blazer 147).
When they set out to find their identity and achieve empowerment, the young males become addicted to seeking attention. Modern culture has forced dependency upon the protagonists because “the culture sickens and makes [them] sick, and the very medicine it prescribes becomes part of its poison” (Eduardo Mendieta). As fight club increasingly becomes popular, the narrator (and therefore Tyler) begins to attempt escaping society in a different way in Fight Club. The narrator creates and controls his own made-up world, and by placing Tyler as a god-like figure in this fake world, he attempts to break free from the actual society. Although his new method seems bizarre and almost counter-intuitive, this is the narrator’s second method in attempt to regain identity. As Tyler begins to gain power increasingly, he creates a rebel cult, Project Mayhem, ultimately brainwashing adolescent males into valuing uniformity. He recreates the homogenizing culture within the cult to gain an even stronger sense of identity and individuality by being the only “different” one. Members of the cult, referred to as space monkeys for their lack of identity, all begin to repeatedly tell themselves that “individually, [they] are nothing” because “our culture has made us all the same” (Fight 134). Tyler starts scarring the backs of the space monkeys’ hands with lye, and the space monkeys eventually start using lye to burn off their fingerprints, symbolizing the eradication of individuality and destruction of identity. The narrator describes the lye kiss as it “cling[s] in the exact shape of Tyler’s kiss [like] a branding iron”, creating the allusion to slavery (Choke 75). Tyler presents himself as more distinguished and worthy than the space monkeys, like a master feels superior over his slaves. By being the founder of such a crazy cult, Tyler proceeds to accomplish crazier deeds and becomes addicted to “getting God’s attention for being bad” because that was “better than getting no attention at all” (Fight 141). Opposite to the narrator and Tyler, Victor becomes addicted to publically acting vulnerable for random strangers to gain their attention and pity. Unable to sustain his needs financially by just working at Colonial Dunsboro, Victor has a daily routine of choking in restaurants just to be saved by good Samaritans. He repeatedly claims that people save him to “get what they want, plus a good story to tell”, a candid yet pessimistic approach to being saved (Choke 133). This approach illustrates Victor’s ultimate flaw for “not believ[ing] in anything because he consciously realizes that the world is comprised of nothing” which again supports the claim of a hyperrealistic society (Blazer 143). Victor implies that the people who save him want to adopt the savior-like identity and feel stronger and more confident. Although Victor explains his choking scheme as a good deed, helping others feel special and godly, choking also represents Victor’s addiction to mean something to others. Just like his attempt to escape the hyperrealistic society by taking on a fictional identity, Victor takes on a newer approach by becoming “the choking person” to random strangers.
Alex Blazer insists that Victor chokes to also “annihilate himself for being nothing more than a shifting subject of postmodern hyperreality” (154). A similar approach of self-destruction is observed in Fight Club, as Tyler attempts to encourage the narrator to destroy his lifestyle that “serve nobody well, and recognize the importance of mortality” (“Chuck 1962”). Tyler’s core main idea links self-destruction to realizing the importance of life, because “only after disasters can [individuals] be resurrected” (Choke 70). Palahniuk argues that to achieve empowerment and attention, young men risk self-destruction by challenging death.
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