“Disaster is part of my evolution…towards tragedy and dissolution”-Tyler
Durden (Palahniuk 110)

I am Joe’s abandoned profundity.

Chuck Palahniuk delved deeply into the philosophy of existence beyond the
material, consumerism, and a man’s place in a post feminist world in his debut
novel Fight Club, later adapted into a screenplay by Jim Uhls, but many have
found the film version to be a creature wholly separate from the original
monster of chuck’s masterful design.
            In any transition from written
work to screen some level of loss occurs in the translation, cuts are made,
changes in tone for marketability’s sake, creative differences between the
authors vision and the directors, and of course simply narrowing the scope from
what is limited solely to ones imagination with a novel, to what can be
accomplished on a film screen. It is a savage process, one that left the
nameless narrator of Fight Club coming to be known as Jack in the film, and
turned benign paraffin dud bombs into roaring explosions for the sake of
climatic boom.
            Most of the changes from book
to film on the surface appear superficial, such as the narrator’s name. “I am
Joe’s prostate” (Palahniuk 58) The narrator of the novel finds a stack of old
readers Digests, and in these books are a collection of essays written in the
first person from the point of view of body organ’s. Throughout the book, Chuck
uses this as a device to express the narrator’s emotion, for the character is
unable to do it through normal means. “I get cancer, I kill Jack” (Tyler Durden
Fight Club). The Movie continues this, though takes the conversation outside of
the narrator’s head, and most noticeable, changes the name Joe to Jack to avoid
being sued by Reader’s Digest. By doing this, many came to believe that the nameless
narrator was named Jack, this confusion further compounded when props from the
movie were flashed to show the name “Jack Moore” ( Fight Club) on pay stubs,
and travel tickets.

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            Whether he
is Jack, Joe or the nameless narrator, one of the most shocking scenes in the
film comes when Tyler
gives out a homework assignment to go out into the world and pick a fight that the
members of fight club intend to lose. In that scene of the movie, Jack goes to
his boss at the insurance company and beats himself bloody, bashing himself
around his boss’s office as the man looks on in horror, only to then crawl over
to the man to beg him to stop. Just as he does this, the security guards bust
in, and Jack gets everything he wants, which is paid every week for not coming
into work anymore, a job he thoroughly hates. This scene did not take place in
the book. Rather, the narrator was working at a hotel, one of the many jobs he
took on to fill the time in his insomnia, everything plays out the same as in
the movie, only the boss involved is different, but the difference is crucially
important.
            The narrator’s boss at the
Insurance company is a father figure to him, an angle that is never played out
in the film. “What you have to understand is, your father was your model for
God” (Palahniuk 140).  Chuck elaborates
through a character referred to only as the mechanic, that men in our Gen-X
society now were raised largely by women, abandoned tremendously by their
father figures, and if father is the model for god, what does that leave the
adult Christian male to firmly believe in? The Mechanic believe that men will
spend their whole life searching for god, their father, and are often lost in
doing so because they are programmed through the Ikea nesting instinct pumped
into them through a near female dominated society built by male abandonment.
The solution the mechanic offers is, to get gods attention anyway possible,
“Burn the Louvre…” he suggests, implying destroying something beautiful
something holy in God’s sight might get God’s notice. “This way at least, God
would know our names.” (Palaniuk 141) It is in this chapter, which the narrator
is asked before a staged car crash, what he would like to do before he dies. He
then thinks he would have liked to have quit his job, and it is that thought
that gives his other self, his alter ego Tyler, the permission to kill his
boss, his father figure, thus fulfilling the Oedipal themes in the book that
also, like the death of the boss, never reach the film. The exploding computer,
however, does make it onto the screen, as a bit of a disjointed montage.
            Aside from conflicted and
abandoned themes, some major plot discrepancies occurred later in the film.
Dismissing the fact that Tyler and the Narrator did not meet on a plane as in
the movie, but on a beach, and that Tyler
did not sell soap for a living, but rather that was an invention that arrived
out of necessity later, Jim Uhls felt it necessary to be more elementary with
the motivations of Project Mayhem. The Novel was heavy on metaphor and
allegory, allowing the reader to find their own personal truth to the story,
and evidently the studio felt a moving going audience would need the cliff
notes in hand to grasp this. Therefore, instead of the Project Mayhem simply
making a statement at the end of the film, instead of it really saying
something and having its target be the National Museum (The building Tyler
takes the narrator to with intent into to squish it when the one he is in blows
up and topples over), they have the target be all the credit card companies and
banks, the destruction of which setting everyone financially back to zero. The
new premise of that alone is a little ridiculous, but it made for a big Hollywood boom finale.
            “A lot of folks mix their
nitro with cotton and add Epsom salts as a sulfate. This works too. Some Folks,
they use paraffin mixed with nitro. Paraffin has never, ever worked for me.”
(Palaniuk 12) Chuck has a clever way of mixing a sort of Anarchist Cookbook
flare with a grit and humor that makes his writing style just something that
truly polarizes its readers-you love it, or you hate it, no in betweens. A lot
of this was left out in the movie, this bit in particular being one of the
first little diatribes he goes into on the creation of nitro for the plastic
made to wrap the columns of the building they are in. At the end of the book,
it turns out that Tyler
used paraffin to mix the nitro, and as the narrator says, paraffin has never,
ever, worked for him. Since he and Tyler turn out by the end of the story to be
the same man, we understand why there is no boom, why the history museum still
stands. This however is a good thing, because our narrator has “evolved” as is
a central theme of the story, and he has out grown the need for Tyler and no part of him
truly wants this act anymore, hence the subconscious choice to mix the nitro
with paraffin—if stead of Tyler
infiltrating the narrator, the narrator infiltrated Tyler.

            On that
same note, the movie makes it seem as though it is the narrator is shooting
himself in the face that kills Tyler,
and this is just not the case. It belittles the metamorphosis of the character.
The Narrator stands upon the precipice of oblivion, a choice between death,
life, the woman he is pretty sure he loves, the people who want to save him,
the space monkeys pulling the levels and following the orders he no longer has
any control over giving, and he makes the conscious decision that Tyler is no
more. “Marla’s coming towards me, just me because Tyler is gone. Poof. Tyler is my hallucination, not hers. Fast as
a magic trick, Tyler’s
disappeared. And now I am just one man holding a gun in my mouth.” (Palahniuk
204)
            This decision was probably
made because audiences will respond better to an ending that is a high note,
and no one likes the idea of credit card companies. In the novel, the character
ends up in a mental institution, where ever so often people will come up to him
and tell him things like “We miss you Mr. Durden” and “Everything is going to
plan.” Because to everyone else in the world, he is and shall forever remain
Tyler Durden.
            Out of all the cuts and
changes, all the lines shifted from that character to this one or that one, the
single most profound loss from novel to screen was simply a depth that the
director had little hope of conveying through the medium to begin with. The
finest example of this being the original meeting of the Narrator and Tyler in
the book, where the narrator wakes to find himself on a beach and Tyler is
working at erecting fallen logs in the sand. Tyler works at it tirelessly, and the
Narrator just watches in confusion as Tyler
asks him what time it is before sitting down in the sand. Of course, the
Narrator has a watch and Tyler
doesn’t, it is very typical of the two character types, the narrator is
consumed by duty and obligation and punching a clock, and one look at Tyler reveals him to be a
free spirit, the poster child for Nietzsche’s ermensch; a man like Tyler
would not wear a watch.

“I asked if Tyler
was an artist

 

  Tyler
shrugged and showed me how the five logs standing were wider at the base. Tyler showed me the line
he’d drawn in the sand, and how he’d used the line to gauge the shadow cast by
each log. 

 What Tyler had created was the shadow of a giant
hand. Only now the fingers were nosferatu-long and the thumb was too short, but
he said how at exactly four-thirty the hand was perfect. The giant shadow hand
was perfect for one minute, and for one perfect minute Tyler had sat in the palm of the perfection
he’d created himself. 

 One minute was
enough, tyler
said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth
the effort. A moment was all you could expect from perfection.” (Palahniuk 33)
 
The Narrator is instantly drawn to the spirit of Tyler, the man who created
this perfect shadow that though would last for but a minute, was more than
enough for him. Tyler
was content to bask for one moment in the perfection he created for himself,
and the content all the more to leave it behind to go swim without giving it
another thought. The Narrator, like most people in life, are so busy looking at
their watch, struggling to earn that watch and things like that watch, they
they’d never notice that perfect moment if it came. It was absolutely perfect
moments like this that didn’t make it into the film, whilst the booms and the
sexy Brad Pitt did. Both share their merits, for both originate from a truly
brilliant mind, but philosophically speaking, the movie is an imperfect shadow.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. Henry Holt and Company. NY NY. 1995
Fight Club produced by 20th century Fox directed by David
Fincher   Screenplay by Jim Uhls 1999

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