Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fight Club is The Great Gatsby


In the afterword of Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk states:
"Really, what I was writing was just The Great Gatsby, updated a little. It was 'apostolic' fiction--where a surviving apostle tells the story of his hero. There are two men and a woman. And one man, the hero, is shot to death."
Now, Palahniuk simplifies things a bit. The Great Gatsby is at it's heart a story of a love triangle and in the end the "hero" does indeed get shot to death. The Great Gatsby is about so much more than that, but I get what he is suggesting. I am not the first one to look at these comparisons either. There is a terrific article by Reece Choules entitled, Fight Club vs. The Great Gatsby: Was Palahniuk's Novel a Modern Update which you should check out.
But I do think that it would be interesting to dig into this idea a little further.

First, we could spend some time sussing out who the characters connect to in The Great Gatsby.

Choules states that Tyler is Gatsby, Marla is Daisy, and the narrator could be a sort of Nick Carraway. Then the Fight Clubs and Project Mayhem would be Tom Buchanan since they stop the main characters from getting what they want. This is a fine interpretation. I can see how Tyler could be Gatsby. He wants things--Marla, destruction, but most importantly he wants a world that is different than the current one he live in. Gatsby could be said to share that desire. He wants to live in a world in which Daisy never loved Tom and Gatsby is willing to do everything in his power to create this world. Tyler also does not hold back in his attempts to achieve his dream.

I think you could also see the characters in a different light, with the narrator as Gatsby, Marla is still Daisy, and Tyler Durden is Tom Buchanan. Gatsby gets shot in the end and Tom (essentially) is the one that makes that happen. The narrator is shot at the end of Fight Club and Tyler pushes that event. Marla is the sexual desire of the narrator, even if it is just subconscious. Like Gatsby, the narrator deeply wants Marla. And Tom Buchanan is a definition perfect man-child, just like Tyler.

Of course, these character analyses become muddled when we get to the end of the book and it is revealed that the narrator is Tyler Durden. So they the narrator is both Gatsby and Tom Buchana? Or the narrator is both Gatsby and Nick? See what I mean? Not quite as interesting anymore.

Choules then discusses the themes of both books and I totally agree with his assessment.
"The Great Gatsby was about a vacuum in the soul of society after WWI, or the downside of the American dream and the struggle of the classes; then Fight Club is about the rejection of that dream. In the world Palahniuk creates everyone has become cocooned in the pursuit of perfection. Perfect catalogue houses, impossibly sculptured bodies, designer clothes, rock god status, and fast cars are the dreams on sale, and everyone is told to believe in these."
Choules is absolutely right. The characters in The Great Gatsby are just beginning to understand the problems inherent in the American dream. Which they all become very disillusioned with at the end. The characters in Fight Club outright reject the American dream as many people in society are doing today. 

But on a very simplistic level, I can agree that Fight Club could be seen as an updated Great Gatsby.

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