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Tyler. Where to even begin with that guy?
He’s a metaphorical twist of douchebaggery; he’s an antagonist and protagonist at the same time.
He’s the one that lures the Narrator into his firm and twisted grasp. “Why, so you can pretend to be interested?” he says to the Narrator in their first real meeting on the plane.
Obviously, the Narrator and Tyler have met before. Shortly after giving the Narrator the ass (as Tyler moves to a different seat on the plane), the Narrator’s condo blows up.
“Did you know if you mix equal parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate, you can make Napalm?”
Yes, this guy, Tyler, intentionally blew up the Narrator’s condo. But why? Did the Narrator, in some masochistic twist, invent Tyler out of sheer boredom or insomnia?
Let’s not dwell too much on why the Narrator made up Tyler. Oh, but now some of you may be quoting the infamous hotel room scene where the Narrator says, “You’re a voice in my head!” Tyler immediately responds, “And you’re a voice in mine!” Tyler would go on, “I look how you want to look. I fuck the way you want to fuck. I am free in all the ways you are not.”
Yes, the Narrator, somehow, in some pitied frenzy, invented the asshole of all assholes; a multiple personality that is not only self-destructive to others, but self-destructive to the Narrator himself.
But deep, deep down, Tyler, is, in essence, a super nice guy. I mean, why else would he grab some guy out of a convenience store, hold him at gun point, and demand to know intimate details about the person. “What did you study in school?” Tyler demanded. “S-s-s-s-stuff!” the man responded. Only after interrogating the poor bastard some more did Tyler take the man’s driver’s license with the promise that the man would continue on a life of meaning, rather than as a dead-end-job clerk in a convenience store.
Isn’t it rather ironic that Tyler demanded others to hit rock bottom, but when he met people that he considered slummish, Tyler expected better? Why did he not hold Marla at gun point and demand she stopped going to support groups to give her life meaning? No, Tyler is a good guy at points, even if it’s a gun to your metaphorical head. He wants people to realize their potential.
Tyler likes to shit on people who think they have it all. Let’s grab a senior police investigator during his bathroom break and threaten to cut off his nuts. “Do not fuck with us!” Tyler demanded.
Or, let’s urinate in peoples’ soup and giddily watch them scarf it down as he masturbates into some other restaurant concoction. Tyler is also the guy that relishes splicing scenes from a pornographic movie into family films. But, why? Does Tyler just not give a fuck? Or does Tyler have some higher purpose to prey on those who think they are comfortable in their lives.
“I don’t want to die without any scars.” Tyler would at one time say to the Narrator before they duke it out for the first time.
Tyler, in my most simple description of him, hated those in privileged positions. The Narrator was very privileged. The Narrator had a great condo full of meaningless shit, had a respectable job as an accident investigator, and generally had his crap together (besides not being able to sleep). Tyler ruined all of this in one explosion, which is paramount in a way as it shows how stupid it is to collect material possessions.
Tyler was also a leader, but he really had no plans at all. Actually, Tyler did have a plan. His plan was to un-plan all of the plans of others. Think you’re going to work in a convenience store for life? Nope, get your ass home to study. Think you’re going to be in debt and a slave to banks for all of your life? Nope, let’s destroy those buildings, give you freedom, and start over.
In the Narrator’s view, Tyler just wanted to cause chaos. Not so true. Tyler wanted to free people of their obligations. Tyler wanted to give everyone a near-life experience. Tyler wanted to allow people to reach their full potential, and let go — even if it meant blowing shit up and reigning chaos throughout various cities.
Were Tyler and the Narrator the same person? I would argue no. Tyler needed the Narrator more than the Narrator needed Tyler. Tyler needed someone like the Narrator to squirm and squeal his way to rock bottom.
So, what is it to have hit rock bottom? Some would say it’s a place where you have nothing left to lose. In other words, you can’t hit further down because you’ve hit it. It’s only up from here.
I would argue that I’ve hit rock bottom twice in my life. But that’s my version of hitting rock bottom. I quit a great job, was unemployed for over a year, racked up loads of credit card and medical bills, and couldn’t make enough even to help pay rent as I stayed at my sister’s place.
But even my rock bottom didn’t compare to a guy I met named Mike. We met at a karaoke bar while I was going through one of my manic phases. I asked if I could sit next to him since all the tables were taken. “Sure.” he replied.
I later learned that he was as mental as I was, and that he was a paranoid schizophrenic. He was down on his luck as well, living out of a motel room. He was alienated from his children and didn’t have a job. I did my best to help the guy, but there was only so much I could do.
If Tyler put a gun to Mike’s head, Mike would have immediately responded, “I want to own a restaurant.” If Tyler did the same to me, I would have probably stuttered, “S-s-s-s-stuff.” Or perhaps screamed back, “I’ve been to school. I’ve been an engineer. I’ve done my programming. I’ve published a book. What else is there?!” Then after Tyler knocked me over the head with his gun, I probably would respond, “W-w-w-writing.”
Hitting rock bottom is different for everyone. Some rant and squeal, as I did. Others just take life as it comes. I say, try moving to a different city or country with a few days notice. You’ll very quickly realize what is and isn’t important to you.
You can always build up for later, but what’s the point? In a moment’s notice, all of your stuff could go flaming into the night.