Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk’s opera prima, focuses on a narrator, whose name is never revealed, and who works investigating automobile insurance claims across America to perform recall cost appraisals for the big automobile company he works for. The stress and the drag of frequent business travel begins to take its toll on our protagonist, who starts to suffer from insomnia. When seeking treatment, the doctor who tends to him doesn’t think there’s much wrong with him and says: You want to see some real suffering? Go to a support group for victims of testicular cancer, that’s real suffering. So he audits a group, pretending to be stricken with the disease himself, and there he discovers that he shares a lot of similar problems with those in the group, despite not having testicular cancer himself.
The narrator keeps going to different Terminally Ill patient groups, he can’t get enough of them, almost becoming addicted to the suffering of others, which provides him with deep relief. And through some of the meditative and sharing exercises that they perform in the groups, he is able to relieve his insomnia. Everything is working out for him until he starts meeting Marla Singer, another “pretender” visiting the support groups under false pretenses around town. Marla reminds our narrator that he is a big fake “tourist” and doesn’t really belong in the groups. After a confrontation, the two agree to make a schedule to attend different support groups across the city in order to avoid each other.
While on a trip, the narrator meets Tyler Durden, a charismatic, yet mysterious character. An explosion during the business trip destroys the condo of the narrator. Being a reclusive type with apparently very few friends, the one person he thinks of calling is his most recent acquaintance, Tyler Durden. They meet and Tyler agrees to take him in, but asks for something in return: “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” Tyler says to him. This brings on a rather comical fight. They both find that they’ve enjoyed their brief scuttle and almost immediately after spending the first night together they decide to live together and establish a “fight club”, recruiting men at basement parties that operate more like illegal, underground boxing matches.
Tyler and our narrator are having a dandy time living together in an abandoned house and Marla, begins to take note that the narrator has not been attending his share of the support groups, so she calls him claiming that she has taken an overdose of pills in what could be construed as a weak attempt to kill herself. Tyler, now our narrator’s roommate, answers the call and decides he’s got nothing better to do than to rescue her. Tyler and Marla hit it off and start a passionate, yet emotionless sexual relationship. Mysteriously, Tyler and Marla are never in the same room at the same time. This begins to bother our narrator, who at this point is also beginning to question his sanity.
Fight clubs start popping up everywhere across the whole of the Unites States. Tyler starts to recruit members of the club participate in increasingly dangerous and elaborate pranks on corporate America. This leads the most devoted members of the fight club to form a separate, more fundamental club called “Project Mayhem”, which much like a militarized cult, trains like an army to overthrow the consumerist civilization America has become. Our narrator becomes increasingly preoccupied with the growing violence and destruction that Project Mayhem’s activities are causing, and he finally decides to stop Tyler and Project Mayhem when Bob, a member of the club, but also a friend he met at a testicular cancer support group, is killed during one of the projects operations. But in an interesting plot twist near the end the narrator learns that he has a lot more in common with Tyler than he ever imagined.