Thursday, October 15, 2015

Marla Doesn't Exist

While I read Fight Club, and more so while I was viewing the film, I kept thinking that something was up with Marla Singer. Her character just seemed strange to me. After, I did some research and I am not the only person to have these ideas. There are many people who subscribe to the theory that Marla Singer does not exist! You can even read another article, by Rob Conery, which you can read here, and I will be quoting and paraphrasing heavily from Conery's article. But let me break it down for you...

The Marla Singer Didn't Exist Theory

Our narrator is messed up, there is no doubt about that. He is having a difficult time sleeping and his job is such that he moves all around the "country staring at death and destruction." Eventually that has to have some sort of effect on a guy. Because of all this stress, our narrator creates Tyler Durden, another side of himself--a split personality if you will. Tyler represents the animalistic, destructive side of our narrator. But Tyler created another split personality earlier on in the story, before he created Tyler, he created Marla. Marla could represent the narrator's remorse, his guilt, his lies. This first split personality was the result of his work and lack of sleep. How all the death and destruction first affected him. First he created a persona who feels and wants to deal with her emotions and her own mortality. I find it very interesting that the narrator's first persona is a female. But when that persona doesn't work, the narrator creates a new persona that just wants to embrace all of the destruction and even expand it.

So, enter Marla Singer. The narrator first "meets" Marla at a support group for testicular cancer. I'm pretty sure that if Marla was real she would not have testes and probably would be seen as strange attending a support group for testicular cancer. I can't say for sure because I haven't ever attended a support group like this, maybe they just welcome everyone regardless, but Marla should probably be at a different cancer support group. Then she is found smoking through the entirety of the meeting. Fight Club was published in 1996 and if I remember correctly, most states were passing strict no smoking laws during that time. Growing up in the 90's I don't remember people being allowed to smoke inside buildings unless it was a bar or bowling alley. Maybe people smoke at support groups like this, but if I were there I would at least say something, or move to the other side of the room so I would not have to breath in her smoke. But no one seems to notice. She just smokes and no one says anything, not even the narrator. Maybe because she isn't really there? And if Marla Singer didn't actually exist I think that makes the part where the narrator goes to hug her at the meeting and confront her all the more interesting. If she isn't there then he is embracing and arguing with himself. 

After the testicular cancer meeting, the narrator chases Marla out into the street arguing with her. She crosses the street several times in the midst of heavy traffic and walks into a laundromat and steals some cloths. In both instances no one seems to notice. The cars don't honk at her, she isn't hit by them. No one yells, "thief!" when she steals the clothing. Maybe because she isn't really doing those things. You can really see this in the film. Fincher did a wonderful job in this scene and it is probably one of the biggest pieces of evidence for this theory.

What becomes very interesting and could spark whole essays about this book, is the fact that Marla and Tyler copulate in the book. I don't want to go into details, but I believe that suggests something interesting about our narrator.

Once the narrator falls deeply into the Tyler persona, Marla moves out of the lime light. The narrator has chosen to pursue the animalistic side of himself and he doesn't need the grieve and guilt side anymore. He doesn't want to feel those emotions, he wants to feel pain. So, Marla isn't apparent for many chapters, but she is still there, waiting in the corners of the narrators mind.

One more clue that really convinced me was the fact that Marla and Tyler can't be together in the kitchen scene. After Tyler copulates with Marla, they both come down to speak with the narrator in the kitchen, but they never come down together. The book even takes a moment to explain that Tyler cannot be in the kitchen when Marla is there and vice versa. I believe that is because they are both persona's in the narrator's head and he can't have more than one persona at a time occupying his mind.

Eventually, the narrator figures it out. That Tyler isn't real and he begins to try to bring the whole thing down. Tyler has set it up so that the narrator will be unable to do it, he even has instructed the Project Mayhem lackeys to harm the narrator if he tries to stop them. And who comes to his rescue, when his other persona isn't working out anymore? Marla Singer. His guilt and remorse returns to hold his hand and help him through the final moments of his life. In the film she holds his hand while they watch the destruction of another building in the distance. Giving him the comfort that Tyler was unable to.

Marla isn't an animal and she cannot compete with Tyler and so she just fades into the background. But Marla knows that the narrator cannot embrace the animal forever. He is using the animalistic persona to mask his feelings instead of dealing with them. And when he is finally ready to deal with his emotions, once Tyler is gone, she reappears. Unfortunately, the narrator never actually does deal with his emotions, with troubling things he has seen and done in his life. Both of his made-up persona's have failed him. He decides that all he can do is take his own life.

Now, there are plenty of things that could refute this idea, but that is why it is a theory and not fact. The biggest thing to remember is that Fight Club is an incredibly fun book to think about.

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