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‘Struggles’ between the Proletariat and the Bourgeois in Fight Club

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Palahniuk uses fight club to demonstrate that although America may not be as primary industry driven as it once was. It has moved towards a more tertiary type economy which creates an American version of the working class. Palahniuk's perception of the American service worker is like that of the traditional proletariat. This put into perspective shows a clear divide between the proletariat service workers and the business-owning bourgeois who dominate society with three ideals. From a Marxist perspective, the state favors the bourgeoisie, but the proletariat could overcome this was through revolution, which is shown at points in the novel when the narrator and Tyler begin with petty things such as weed in the soup of the rich restaurant guests in order to gain a sense of revenge as the bourgeoisie take advantage of the workers, this later leads to escalated retaliation to the Bourgeoisie when Tyler assembles his followers to threaten a police officer. This demonstrates the struggles that the proletariat face under the bourgeoisie ideals, and Fight club shows that the proletariat have power just as much as the bourgeoisie just the state is biased and can be seen as a struggle for peace between the service workers and the business owners.

Palahniuk portrays that people believe in consumerism more so than religious values and have moved away from the Christian values of before and is almost an addiction to the modern American. This is shown when the narrator tells the story of his life before he met Tyler and in doing so brings the reader’s attention to what he owns. ‘‘Njuranda coffee table in the shape of a lime green yin and an orange yang that fit together to make a circle’’ which creates the impression the narrator is eager to spend money to better himself and feel a sense of achievement because the bourgeois have everything and the narrator wants to buy things just as much as them so can make the average service stand out and feel special, so buying materialistic helps them achieve fulfillment. Furthermore When the narrator says the pursuit of the next best product is the current generation’s pornography “the people who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography, now they sit in the bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalog” which suggests the workers look over the magazines in great detail in order to satisfy their search for perfection and fulfillment. It also creates an idea that the proletariat buys things to show they are important and that without the goods they are looked down upon by the bourgeois and by buying things the working man feels worthless without it. Furthermore, consuming can be dangerous which is shown when the narrator finds himself in his belongings, which consequently harms him, this is because he becomes a second to his belongings as they act as his leader as portrayed with his shattered apartment. The narrator and realized he had become ‘trapped in his lovely nest and the things that he used to own now own him.’ After the apartment explosion, when the narrator calls Tyler for a place to live, he desperately reaches out to him for salvation from his addiction to consumerism. “Swedish furniture…clever art… from being perfect and complete” This shows that fight club is taming consumerism and when the proletariat realizes they are oppressed and are struggling, as up until this point the narrator has be blurred by his possessions and as result the narrator not been able to see his full worth.

Moreover, Palahniuk uses the fight club to show a distinct difference in class in America. An evident difference between the proletariat and the bourgeois happens in a lift where Tyler and the narrator are at a dinner party, the narrator describes the guests as ‘titans’ who drink ‘barrels of champagne… and wearing diamonds bigger than I feel’ the guests ‘lift their forks the size of a whole pig’ Palahniuk uses exaggeration to demonstrate the affluence the bourgeois have and how ungrateful the bourgeois behave because they waste a lot of things, as they possess far more than the narrator can understand which shows how prosperous the bourgeois life’s are in comparison to the proletariat. Furthermore, the bourgeois use their wealth and power to treat people in a sub-humane manner, ‘just walk to see you run around for your money… can’t threaten you with a tip so your just a cockroach to them’ this portrays that the narrator feels like a cockroach because he is not treated like a human, which is how the proletariat are looked upon by the bourgeois. Moreover, the bourgeois misuse the workers and treat them like sub-humans, acting like army generals the way they order the proletariat about. This links back to the idea of the bourgeoisie treating the waiters like cockroaches as they run about the restaurant floor. Additionally, Palahn`iuk shows the proletariat's life through the narrator and his feelings being described as ‘joe’, which refers to the ‘average joe’, the average American worker. This occurs when the narrator says ‘I am joe’s blood boiling’ which is in response to his boss’s comfortable lifestyle. ‘midlife spread… his dreams of early retirement and trips to Arizona dessert’ and the narrator knows he will never experience any of this which makes his ‘blood boil’ because of his frustration that his boss has such benefits of the hard work his workers put in, yet the workers merely struggle to get by in life. Likewise using ‘joe’ responses to show the narrator's frustration, it enhances the workers' general opinion towards the bourgeois as a negative one as the bourgeois have everything which causes rage amongst the workers as society is unfair. What’s more there is a different scenario that demonstrates the narrator having power, when he challenges the manager at the hotel. ‘Joe’s smirking revenge’ demonstrates that the narrator is keen to use his new-found power over the bourgeois. As the narrator reveals he urinates in the food of the customers ‘I told how I was peeing in the soup… I now wanted the hotel to send me a check equivalent to my average week’s wages plus tips’ which forces him to get what he wants so he doesn’t reveal this information to the press. This demonstrates that the narrator has real power in fight club deception of the ‘average joe’ is that if they stand up for themselves and work together they have the power to get rid of the bourgeois dictatorship and the society that favors the rich and can lead to a proletariat dictatorship that Karl Marx wanted in order to abolish capitalism. This shows that in a Marxist way the service workers have power if they all look out for each other and care for one another which prevents the struggle that they face.

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Equally important is the idea that according to Karl Marx people become more of an object rather than person because of the capitalist society. Fight club demonstrates this on a few different occasions one instance when this applies is when the narrator uses logical thinking on whether to call for a recall on faulty goods. ‘you take the population of vehicles in field A then multiply it by the probability of failure B.’ this demonstrates that the recall is a matter of the cost to the consumer is higher than the cost of the recall, but the bourgeois usually disregard this fact as the prize of money and profits is more important to them than human injury or death. Furthermore, demonstrates the sheer ignorance, the bourgeois have for people as they view them as no more than a figure so take away their values and look upon as sub-humane. Although Marxist movements condemn the bourgeoisie’s reification of the proletariat, they also tend to treat people as commodities during their revolutionary activities. The narrator criticizes his capitalist company for reducing real people’s mortality and morbidity to numbers. Still, the Paper Street Soap Company does the same thing by using human bodies as the key ingredient in its product, which is then sold for a profit. Likewise, people are perceived to become nothing more than an object once they die, this happens when the mechanic talks about the ‘miracle of death’ ‘one second your walking and talking and the next you’re an object.’ This further implies that people become more of possession once they pass and lose all values once they no longer offer anything to society which is a key criticism of the capitalist society. Rectifying the way the bourgeois have an urge to treat the proletariat as more of a possession than a person which takes away the dignity of the proletariat so therefore struggles to get authority which makes them just a simple piece of the big business puzzle that the bourgeois value above all.

The idea of how the struggle the proletariat endure adds to the fact they are sick of it and gives them a want to stand up for themselves and initiate somewhat of a rebellion. Once the narrator starts at fight club he begins with a struggle but with determination it gives him a sense of belief that he can act the way he wants, and he does so when he is asked by his boss about the club rules. The narrator develops an inner sense of belief in himself, ‘the hole in my cheek… swollen red scar of Tyler kiss’ this shows the injuries he has endured during his time at the fight club have helped him become more powerful which forces to ignore the power of authority and wealth and forces him to ignore the fact that society favors people like his boss. ‘after a few fights you’re afraid of less’ this implies that the narrator has more belief in himself which creates the idea that fight club takes away the fear from the proletariat and they’re able to stand up for themselves against the bourgeois ideals. Fight club shows evident types of revolution starting with almost childlike acts to revolt against the bourgeois. Tyler and the narrator start ‘peeing in the soup, fating in the crème braille’ before serving food to the party guests, which shows a low-level revolt against the bourgeois. Moreover, Tyler leads his following to demonstrate and threaten a police officer who was trying to close the fight club, this demonstrates the power in numbers that the proletariat has the capability to achieve. Fight Club reflects the potential power possessed by the proletariat and depicts the beginning of a social revolution against capitalist society. These characteristics coincide well with the doctrines of Marxism and demonstrate that the battle between capitalism and Marx may not yet be complete. While this ultimately doesn’t work in getting a better life for the proletariat it creates the idea that the workers are able to create a disruption in the life of the bourgeois and shows that in essence both the proletariat and the bourgeois don’t coexist well together and both struggle as consequences of each other’s actions.

Overall, I feel that Palahniuk uses fight club to demonstrate an American example of the oppression suffered that is common throughout history as the lower classes get discriminated against purely due to their backgrounds and the wealthy profit off the hard work of the service workers, which as a result causes frustration within the workers which results in behavior that does not follow the rules and are which often broken or forces people to join things like ‘fight club’ as they are tired of being under the rule of the bourgeois ideals, this is why I believe that fight club is underpinned by a struggling service worker who is under the realm of the greedy bourgeois’.

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‘Struggles’ between the Proletariat and the Bourgeois in Fight Club. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/struggles-between-the-proletariat-and-the-bourgeois-in-fight-club/
“‘Struggles’ between the Proletariat and the Bourgeois in Fight Club.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/struggles-between-the-proletariat-and-the-bourgeois-in-fight-club/
‘Struggles’ between the Proletariat and the Bourgeois in Fight Club. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/struggles-between-the-proletariat-and-the-bourgeois-in-fight-club/> [Accessed 5 Mar. 2024].
‘Struggles’ between the Proletariat and the Bourgeois in Fight Club [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/struggles-between-the-proletariat-and-the-bourgeois-in-fight-club/
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