Identity is a definition of the self, an explanation of character. However, in the movie Fight Club, the components that comprise outward identity often prove to be transitory. Edward Norton’s “Jack” character asks, “If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?” The effects of modernity lead to the impermanence of self image, and the decay of identity.
Rather than having a true identity, “Jack” is called a “byproduct of a lifestyle obsession.” He bases personal worth upon what he owns. It is this materialistic consumerism that steals individuality. How can a concrete identity be established when its value assessment is based upon chain store furniture? The first step made towards recognition is when his possessions are blown up. The push for materialistic progress is a principal example of the concept of modernity in the film. The viewer is led to believe that the destruction is an accident. In the bar scene, Tyler Durden says, “The things you own end up owning you”. His statement is a generalization of the life “Jack” leads. Since “Jack” has no identity outside of his furniture and wardrobe; everything he knows about himself is dependent upon his possessions.
When Tyler later asks Jack to hit him as hard as he can, he justifies his request by asking, “How much could you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” Within this question, Tyler proposes another key idea of the film, that of Dealing with Conflict. The strength of a person’s identity or self is heavily dependent upon how well he or she deals with conflict. Since neither had been in a fight before, each stood to gain a great deal of knowledge of his identity. The term “fight” does not necessarily refer only to fisticuffs. The concept of the “fight” is more accurately represented by any kind of conflict. The club and Tyler are created to fulfill Jack’s inner need to substantiate his masculinity, to rebel against consumer culture, to further a class conflict, to feel real pain, and to cope with anonymity.
Tyler complains that they are part of a generation of men raised by women. They seem to be wrapped up in matters such as interior design and fashion rather than the primal hunter/gatherer basis of masculinity. The club accomplishes Jack’s need to break ...
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...ven though it is actually his and Marla’s relationship all along. At one point Tyler tells Jack that he cannot talk to Marla about him. Tyler does everything in his power to remain manifest. He does not want Jack realizing that he is indeed a part of his own identity. It seems that this product of a schizophrenic mind has a much more stable identity for itself than its creator does. The key to realizing that they are one and the same is what finally allows Jack to intervene and put an end to Tyler’s individual identity and assume it into his own.
Jack’s feelings of misrepresented identity reflect the debilitating effects of modernity surrounding his life. Monotony and repetition of soulless activity forced him to find himself through his possessions. In creating Tyler Durden, Jack makes it clear to everyone but himself that he is an individual capable of a great scale of things, even if they are destructive. By realizing that Tyler was a part of him the whole time, Jack can form his own identity by integrating Tyler’s characteristics into his own. The pessimism of modernity has skewed self-reflexivity, but the “fight” can still teach an individual a great deal about his identity.
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