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The Narrator, according to Marla Singer, is “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Jackass.” The Narrator starts off in the movie as a hostage, which we later find out, isn’t to be. The Narrator is a hostage to himself, being held captive by Tyler Durden.
If you’re confused by now, I don’t blame you. On many subsequent viewings of the movie, it’s hard to tell when Tyler has taken over, or when the Narrator is truly in charge. For the sake of all involved, I’ll pretend this is intentional.
The Narrator chooses early on not to focus in on this hostage situation but on his insomnia problem. The craziness, the multiple personalities, and Mr. Jackass, all started out with his inability to sleep.
Try thinking of the worst insomnia you’ve ever had. Any point past three or four days without regular sleep is very bad for your health. At one point in my life, I went ten days without sleep. I was so scared and malnourished that I checked myself into a hospital. The Narrator went without sleep for six months. No wonder this guy was crazy.
The Narrator had a great job as well. He was an accident investigator for one of the “big names” of motor companies. “Which company do you work for?” a single-serving-friend asked him on a flight. “A major one.” he would reply.
He was all pressed, in his white shirt and tie — a drone of the corporate world. He answered to a higher power, which was his boss with a cornflower blue tie and grande latte enema. In other words, the Narrator was a slave and he eagerly wanted to break free.
The Narrator felt content to order from catalogs, creating the perfect condo full of condiments, furniture, and dish-ware. All of this proved secondary to the Narrator needing to sleep.
He pleaded with his doctor, “Can you just give me something?”, which was followed by a stern, “No.” from his doctor.
“I’m in pain!” the Narrator pleaded. The doctor encouraged him that if he wanted to see pain, to attend various support groups. “That’s pain.” the doctor concluded.
It was only then that the Narrator decided to check out these support groups, and realize, “Holy shit, these people are pretty fucked up.” The Narrator could simulate his rock bottom with these support groups, and was once again able to sleep.
This is about when Marla came in, screwing up his support group fetish, and plunging the Narrator back into insomnia.
We’ve already covered Marla (ah, flashback humor), so let’s delve into when the Narrator decided to call himself from a pay phone outside of his condo, have drinks with himself, and then tell himself, “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.”
He proceeded to beat the living shit out of himself, thus starting the first ever Fight Club beat down.
I must ask, have you ever been with a fight with yourself? Perhaps punched a wall or thrown something that ricocheted back. Like, actually drawn blood. Maybe you punched yourself in the abs to see how strong you were. Yeah, none of that is compared to what the Narrator was prepared to do to himself.
The Narrator started Fight Club. The Narrator was Tyler Durden, asking himself, “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” He likely punched himself in the ear (not an easy task) and then proceeded to punch himself in the gut (again, not an easy task). In fact, stop reading this now and try it (only kidding).
But the Narrator was not himself at this point. He had invented this separate personality that could compensate for all the things the he was not willing to do. For example, why in the world would the Narrator want to blow up his precious condo? “That condo was my life!” he told a police investigator when pressed as to who could do such a thing.
The Narrator, in his life, was seeking perfection. Or, what his idea of perfection was at the time. In the beginning, the Narrator was seeking perfection by filling his condo with an inordinate amount of useless shit. He was reinforcing this perfection by going to groups, crying over Bob’s big tits and listening to Chloe rant about her sex life.
He exuded this perfection when talking to his single-serving-friends. Even with Tyler, when he met him for the first time on the plane, the Narrator was cocky. “So how’s that working out?” Tyler would ask, referring to the Narrator being clever. “Good.” the Narrator would reply, still proud of himself.
It wasn’t until at the airport when his luggage was confiscated did we start seeing the Narrator fall from perfection. When he arrived at his building to see his condo had exploded, the Narrator was in utter shock. “Is there someone you can call?” the doorman would ask. He only had two people who would answer the phone: Marla Singer and Tyler Durden.
Overtime, after starting Fight Club, the Narrator’s idea would change. He would challenge people to random fights, even in his imagination. “Who would you fight?” Tyler asked. “I’d fight Gandhi.” “Good answer.” Tyler chimed.
The Narrator would eventually challenge his boss to a fight. Then destroy Angel Face’s face in a fight after the Narrator grew jealous of the supposed favoritism shown by Tyler.
Eventually, the Narrator would throw his relationship with Marla away, demand to be arrested, escape, and then end up holding a gun to his own head minutes before several buildings nearby were to explode.
I mean, how far down can a guy go? Is this hitting rock bottom, or is this just an utter and complete fall from the Narrator’s ideal of perfection?
In the end, the Narrator fulfilled Tyler’s ultimate goal, with Tyler saying (in their second meeting over beers), “I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect.” Tyler would go on, “I say let… lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”
The Narrator’s fall from perfection didn’t come easy. He fell quite a ways. But he still ended up with some souvenirs, namely Marla and loyalty from his colleagues in Project Mayhem.
Not all of us are as prepared to fall from grace as the Narrator. Just as with Tyler and hitting rock bottom, take stock in what you have. No matter how far you fall, you’re still the same person, as the Narrator demonstrates at the end when all of the nearby buildings start to explode around him.