Minimalists in Fiction: Tyler Durden

by-the-wind sailor on the sand

“We’re seeing mainstream ‘normal’ folks, who look normal, and have normal jobs, being so desperately unhappy….And I think that’s how ‘Fight Club’ really resonates with all of us.”

– Janet Kinch

Many of you have read the novel Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk or seen the movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. But don’t worry if you haven’t yet – I won’t spoil the plot for you.

Those familiar with the story know that, in many respects, Tyler Durden isn’t a good role model. He and his followers do, however, fight consumerism and materialism.

“It’s sort of ironic, too, all of the things I dreamt about buying some day if I had money. Now that I have money I really don’t have interest in things….At this point I recognize the burden that things are. . . . “

– Chuck Palahniuk, interview

I read a lot and don’t see many movies, so the below quotes are from the book. They may or may not match what’s said in the movie, though I understand that all the same anti-consumerist, anti-materialist ideas appear in the film.

It took my whole life to buy this stuff. . . . You buy furniture. . . . Buy the sofa. . . . Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you. [narrator]

A lot of young people try to impress the world and buy too many things. . . . A lot of young people don’t know what they really want. . . . If you don’t know what you want, you end up with a lot you don’t. [doorman]

It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. [Tyler]

Getting fired is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we’d quit treading water and do something with our lives. [Tyler]

If this might be the last time they saw you, they really saw you. Everything else about their checkbook balance and radio songs and messy hair went out the window. [narrator]

I’m breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions because only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit. . . . The teacher who clears all possessions from my path will set me free. [Tyler]

As long as you’re at fight club, you’re not how much money you’ve got in the bank. You’re not your job. [mechanic]

What will you wish you’d done before you died? [mechanic]

I am stupid, and all I do is want and need things. My tiny life. My little shit job. My Swedish furniture. [narrator]

Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don’t really need. [mechanic]

I’d rather kill you than see you working a shit job for just enough money to buy cheese and watch television. [narrator]

I hated my life. I was tired and bored with my job and my furniture, and I couldn’t see any way to change things. Only end them. I felt trapped….I wanted a way out of my tiny life. [narrator]

“You feel trapped — locked to your job by the golden handcuffs. Now that you’ve created this wonderful lifestyle, built up to this level of financial security, how can you unlock the handcuffs and make a change?”

– Barrie Davenport

What about you? Do you feel owned by stuff? Trapped by your lifestyle?

Most of us can’t completely change our lives overnight, but by simplifying your life now, you can, over time, downsize your home, sell excess possessions, cut back on future purchases and pay off debts.

All this will help give you the freedom to look for work that you find more fulfilling and/or work fewer hours so you don’t feel trapped in “your lovely nest.”

8 thoughts on “Minimalists in Fiction: Tyler Durden

  1. I’ve since seen the Fight Club movie. I prefer the book, but then that’s standard for me – you may not feel the same way. It was an enjoyable – if extremely odd – film, and it does have a clear anti-consumerism, anti-capitalism message.

  2. Wow. LOVE these quotes. I haven’t read or seen Fight Club, but it sounds like it needs to be on my reading list. I’m in the process of getting rid of stuff. We spent 1.5 years unemployed, and now that my husband has a job he loves, we kind of jumped into that sort of trap of buying things we thought we needed. After a few months of living with these things that I decided I like living lighter even if I don’t necessarily have to, so I plan to find creative ways to live with less furniture, get rid of the things I’m not crazy about and if necessary replace them with things that work better for me. I’m loving the process so far and each little victory.

    • Thanks, Joelle. Our story is kind of the opposite of yours. Although we’ve never been big spenders, when my husband was laid off we became much more careful about what we bought (obviously) and then after a year it became such a habit, we didn’t even want to go back to the way we’d lived before. Instead, we wanted to keep becoming more frugal and have less stuff.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.