By Elizabeth Ruth Deyro
In the 1999 David Fincher film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s neo-noir novel Fight Club, an unnamed, insomniac, lifestyle-obsessed protagonist (often referred to as The Narrator) found freedom in breaking bad when he met Tyler Durden, a soap maker with an anti-capitalist philosophy, and joined him in starting an underground fight club that gradually transformed into a nationwide terrorist group. Tyler became The Narrator’s liberator and “realigned his perceptions”.
Fight Club is often perceived as a story about the burden carried by men to validate their masculinity using violence in a feminized American society, or encouraging radicalism to put an end to the consumerist culture and oppressive social structure. While these are themes visibly depicted in the film, Fight Club is a story of a man’s journey to finally being able to commit to a woman. The Narrator confirms this immediately in the first scene, when he says the line: “And suddenly I realize that all of this—the gun, the bombs, the revolution—has something to do with a girl named Marla Singer.”
Marla Singer, the femme fatale of the story, was the eccentric woman The Narrator met in the support groups he frequented as a fake patient, having developed a routine of attending self-help groups for people struggling with illnesses he did not have, a habit he regarded as his own remedy for insomnia.
Fight Club ultimately tackled the dysfunctional affair between Marla and The Narrator, the latter’s unwillingness to acknowledge his affections that led him to face other frustrations such as the loopholes of social order, and the great lengths to which he attempted to avoid commitment to Marla, in the form of Tyler Durden, Fight Club, and Project Mayhem. This made Marla, although framed as a secondary character with her occasional disappearance in the overall narrative, the alpha and omega of the Fight Club.
Marla acted as the catalyst of The Narrator’s downfall and, ultimately, the reason behind the materialization of Tyler Durden. It was also Marla who introduced the ultimate revelation, that Tyler was only a persona created by The Narrator in his struggle with Multiple Personality Disorder.
In the end, it was the threat on Marla’s life that triggered The Narrator to ‘kill’ Tyler as his other self, the flag that marked his surrender to the truth that he desired Marla. The Narrator saved her, but with all things considered, it was Marla who saved him from himself. Marla Singer was perhaps the most pivotal element of the story.
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Palahniuk, C. (1996). Fight Club. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
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Elizabeth Ruth Deyro is a liberal arts student from the University of the Philippines.