Tyler Durden is a revolutionary. He is a man who walks through puddles and rides a tricycle indoors in his underwear. Instead of answering his phone, he uses the callback feature. He lives in a run-down house and makes explosives in his basement. He had never been in a fight until he convinced the Narrator to hit him for no reason. Tyler's philosophy of life is simple and unique: you can't be happy until you hit bottom.
In reality, Tyler's physical form is a hallucination of the Narrator. The "real" Tyler Durden is the Narrator himself. Everything he sees Tyler do, he himself is actually doing, without ever realizing it. Oddly, Tyler knows that he and the Narrator are the same person; upon meeting Tyler, when the Narrator points out that he and Tyler have identical briefcases, Tyler only smirks. The Narrator even has doubts at times as to who is the living human being and who is the hallucination.
The jobs Tyler has taken are, for the most part, menial. By day he makes and sells cosmetic soap; by night he works as the person who changes movie reels in the theater and as a banquet waiter. Naturally he manages to take his revenge on the world just as much when he's working as when he fights. He makes his soap from human fat stolen from the trash outside liposuction clinics; oddly enough, the women who tend to buy the soap are those who would also get liposuctions. As the movie states, Tyler is "selling rich women their own fat asses back to them." Working in the theater gives Tyler the opportunity to splice frames of pornography into family movies, while as a waiter, he urinates in the food. Not to mention what he does to the cream of mushroom soup...
The Subliminal Tylers
Before the Narrator actually "meets" Tyler, he sees him in brief, one-frame
flashes, representing Tyler's development in his mind. Below is a list
of these appearances.
Nick writes, "In the beginning there are quick flashes of Tyler in the back ground. I counted 3 of them in different times. Later in the movie they explained the projectionist job that Tyler had and how he put pornographic clips in family movies. Do you think those two things have anything in common?"
I hadn't really thought about this before, but it's a good point. The characters are aware that they are in the movie (Tyler's references to "flashback humor," etc.), and Tyler DID splice a porn clip in at the end, so it's very likely that he put himself in as well.
Kevin asks, "...what are your thoughts on why the bullet killed Tyler but not the Narrator? My own theory is that Tyler was destroyed because the Narrator hit bottom when he was so unafraid of death that he was able to put a gun in his mouth and pull the trigger. The Narrator no longer needed Tyler because he had hit bottom, and he had become Tyler."
Cramer replies, "I disagree on this point. Tyler's presence isn't completely gone. While the main internal conflict of the Narrator may have been how to mesh Tyler's and his own personalities together into a single individual, I believe that the reoccuring thesis of "It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything," can explain that Tyler (the rebel, the non-conformist) is not "dead." In the last few seconds of the film, Tyler's contribution of the porno frame to the reel proves that he may still exist. And perhaps this "diluted Tyler" will make his presence known as the Narrator has ordinary self doubts in the rest of his life. "Jack" hasn't lost everything quite yet, he ends with the idea that he finally has love and gets his mind spoken with the success of Mayhem. Tyler couldn't have disappeared yet because of this. The Narrator cannot experience constant successes and Tyler's "self" doubt will creep back in.
"The ending of the book however does not give the Narrator such a "happy," semi-romantic ending with Mayhem proceeding and holding the hand of Marla. The reader doesn't get to see a building fall and it's stated early that the he loves Tyler, Tyler loves Marla, and Marla loves him and that "love" means "to own." We find the Narrator possibly in a mental hospital hearing voices from his past (people visiting him) and trying to speak his mind to what he believes is God that life isn't as pretty as we've all been told as children. So the "Body" can no longer function as either the Narrator or Tyler after having once again failing at love and destruction. Neither, I believe, is dead."
Togemon here. I agree that Tyler isn't completely dead-- that he lives on in the Narrator at least-- because of the splicing done to the movie.
Michael adds, "I dunno if it's any significance, but at the end when the Narrator puts the gun in his mouth his last words before he pulls the trigger is "My eyes are open". I think this could mean two things, 1. There was a hint earlier that Tyler is really only "alive" when the Narrator sleeps. Since the Narrator is awake, does that means that Tyler must die. Likewise, if Tyler did it when the Narrator was asleep, would he die? 2. He's realized that he is responsible for Project Mayhem and accepted that he is Tyler."
Aaron writes, "One more question I think what I thought about with great consideration what does Tyler Durden or the Narrator look like, Edward Norton or Brad Pitt. It doesn't show you clearly you just assume that he looks like Edward Norton because Tyler dies but there are different scenes that make me think he really looks like Brad Pitt."
This is an interesting point I hadn't thought of. As I replied to Aaron, I always assumed that he looked like Norton, but WANTED to look like Pitt... like in the one scene where the Narrator and Marla are walking past a movie theater, and the marquee says "Seven Years In Tibet." So obviously Brad Pitt "exists" in the world of the movie. I just thought that the Narrator would want to look like him. (Like Tyler says, "I look like you wanna look.") Also, in the Narrator's flashbacks, he sees himself performing Tyler's actions, which suggests that he looks like Norton. Anyone else have thoughts?
Reaper of War asks, "Do you have any idea what Tyler's car may signify? In the begining we see him jump into a beautiful convertable yet when him and Jack begin to live together the question of "Where's your car?" comes up and is answered with "What car?". So, what does this mean? Does it mean Tyler WAS like Jack for a while, then finally gave up everything, or did Jack imagine that he imagines it? I'm confused by that."
The Film Hippie responds, "Since we never see the car again and Tyler doesn't seem to know what Jack's talking about combined with the knowledge that Tyler is everything that the Narrator wants to be, I've always assumed that Tyler jumping into the beautiful convertible and speeding off was simply what Jack wished he was doing at that very moment, as oppose to stuck listening to the Security Guy drone on and on about "throwers" and dildos."
Fat Mike writes, "If I am not mistaken, you can hear someone shout in the background as Tyler drives off with the car. It sounds remarkably like: "Hey, that's my car!" Maybe your first assumption wasn't so far off, eh?"
Similiarly, David Stillberg says, "I recently re-read a bunch of the pages, and I ran across the "Tyler's Car" thingey... If you look closely after Tyler has driven off and "Jack" has turned around, you can actually see someone running and screaming after the car. So I'm pretty sure he stole it :-)"
The Last Beautiful Girl has a slightly different take on the situation. "I have a comment on Reaper of War's question about the car. I had a simular question and my boyfriend, who has been a fan longer than I has this theory: Tyler doesn't have a car--all he has is 1537, really. He has no such possesions, however, Jack is daydreaming. We first really see Tyler when Jack is daydreaming as he is at the airport. Even though the car scene is after Tyler and Jack meet, we still know that they are one in the same person, and I think this is just Jack daydreaming again. He wants to just get out of the airport, away from the security guy and "the dildo" situation, so he is daydreaming himself (as Tyler, as the person he truly wants to be) stealing a car like it's nothing and just going home. I think such a daydreaming theory (since all of this is in his head anyway) would then support why Tyler doesn't really have the car. This also opens up possibilities of a "two Tyler" theory--one Tyler exists "outside" Jack's head, one inside. But that is another discussion entirely and can be debated on another day. :-)"
I (Togemon) agree with The Last Beautiful Girl. I don't think Tyler actually stole the car, because Tyler IS the Narrator, and the Narrator obviously doesn't have the car-- he rides home in a taxi. So I believe the Narrator is just fantasizing about being the kind of guy who could steal a car.
Erika writes, "In Jungian psychology, Tyler is the narrator's Shadow figure, a mental archetype meant to represent all qualities the narrator represses in his daily life. As the narrator's satiric comments on the overrefined sensitivity of the world he lives in make obvious, the rough, brutal, primordially masculine side of the narrator becomes thought of as "evil" and repressed. While the narrator appears to be the mild-mannered, politically correct young man our culture idealizes ("I used to be such a nice guy"), in fact the rough, masculine qualities are becoming so repressed and so concentrated that they eventually reimmerge and take over his life in the figure of Tyler Durden. As the popularity of the Fight Club makes obvious, many males have similar repressed Shadow Figures ("a guy you met at Fight Club wasn't the same guy you met on the streets") Fight Club allows the masculine Shadow side to vent. Because our culture, while repressing masculinity, also glamorizes it in figures such as the beefy figures of the likes of Fabio, the narrator's instant admiration ("You are without a doubt the most interest single-serving friend I've met") becomes understandable. Tyler comments that "we have no war, we have no depression"--in times of war or depression, the rough, primordial, violent side of human nature is offered a socially acceptable outlet. The Tyler Durdens in the Gen Xers who fill up Fight Club have no socially acceptable outlet."