Psychoanalysis is a controversial, yet groundbreaking theory that was created by Sigmund freud, in the late nineteenth-century. Freud describes the art of psychoanalysis, which is hidden within our ‘unconscious,’ in his thesis “Beyond Pleasure Principle.” Freud claimed that human behaviors are the result of inner conflicts taking place within our ‘unconscious.’ This is what Freud called repressed emotions, memories, and instinctual urges. This essay will analyze the main characters of David Fincher’s Fight Club adaptation (1998) to better understand the theories of id and ego. I will look at the character and also explore its society. For a more detailed assessment, I will draw on Carl Gustav Jung’s and Jacques Lacan’s concepts.
The narrator is disappointed in life because of his sense of futility and emptiness. The monotony of his job, the emptiness of his life and its’single-serving nature’ all add to this feeling. Ultimately, his hope of liberation is triggered by this. He believes that liberty can be gained through death. The narrator seems to be cynical because he was misled about the American Dream. The American Dream that was sold to every white male American young of his generation as a dream, but which is now out of reach, has been abandoned. Tyler says, “We’ve been taught on TV that we would all one day be millionaires.” The feelings of estrangement, loneliness and failure that Tyler feels are a result of the unbridled consumerism in our society. As he flips through his Ikea collection, he ponders ‘what dining tables define me as a human being?’ His anger is directed at multinationals and corporate giants for’shrink wrapping’ him and selling him the dream. The ‘Ikea instinct for nesting’ is indicative of the changing culture which has stripped young American men of’manliness. Fincher said in an article with Gavin Smith : ‘We were designed to hunt and now we live in the shopping society.’ Tyler echoes this opinion when he says, “We are consumers.” We’re the by-products from a lifestyle obsession. I don’t care about murder, crime or poverty. Tyler’s acknowledgement of the fact that the ideal nuclear family is no longer the same structure is an additional way to examine the gender question.
In order to understand the general impact of these themes and characters, I’ll be applying psychoanalytical theory. First, I want to focus on Freud’s theory of unconscious motives, and the narrator’s fight for himself. Freud argues in “Ego And The Id” that the psyche of a person is split into three distinct sections: the Id. the Ego. and the Superego. They work in harmony and create a balanced individual when they are all functioning properly. The id represents the power of mind. It is composed of instincts and urges that are constantly demanding satisfaction. Freud separated the two primary drives of the id, death and life instincts. Life instincts tend to be more concerned with survival than death instincts. They are driven by hunger, thirst and other urges. It’s our unconscious desire to die and destroy ourselves. Tyler could be seen as a representation of the id, since his life was not driven by society. He ‘let it fall where it may’. Project Mayhem was born out of Tyler’s desire to destroy society. Without Tyler, the narrator might have been a slave to Ikea’s nesting instinct. After coming to terms of his materialistic existence and single-serving lifestyle, Tyler’s unconscious reservoir becomes flooded with anger. Tyler’s narrator has a vague awareness of this ‘deathdrive’ even before Tyler officially arrives on the flight. He toy around with the idea that he could end his depressing, material existence in a plane crash.
The ego develops from the principle of reality. Freud said that the “reason” and “common sense” of the conscious is the ego, while the “passion”, which is the id contains, represents the id. The id stifles and suppresses its yearnings to maintain control. The narrator is the ego in Fight Club. The narrator, as mentioned earlier, is a person who has insomnia and is estranged. It is evident that the narrator has a death drive when he makes remarks like ‘this your life’, “it’s ending one second at a moment” and other similar statements. The narrator used to be a very well-functioning person, even though he was self-sufficient and had a job. Evidently, there has been a shift in the balance of the id/ego.
Freud’s earlier works, including ‘The Interpretation of Dreams,’ argued dreams were the product of a wish-fulfillment. He uses a term called ‘day residue,’ which means the root of the Dream is rooted in events from the previous day. In children this is evident, but in adults the concept can be more obscure and the dreams are often distorted by subconscious dream concepts. The meaning can be partially hidden. The narrator is affected by this because his insomnia prevents him from releasing his repressed desires in his dream state. Freud believed that the superego was the third component of the personality which develops at five years old. The code of civilized societies is based on our senses of right and bad. It includes our conscience, as well as feelings of regret and guilt. The superego suppresses id urges. In essence, the ego gets caught in a conflict between the angel (superego), and the devil(id). The superego in Fight Club is portrayed as the world of the story. The narrator’s (ego) alienation from the world is so great that he has no resistance to Tyler (id), who tries destroying it. Tyler’s occupations show the struggle between id vs superego. He uses sex scenes in family movies and stains restaurant food. Fight Club is a place that he has created to promote gratuitous violence. Then he embarks on an escalating montage of capitalist resistance, beginning with vandalism at civic buildings.
Freud’s theories about the classification of personality allow us to see how the id versus ego can be powerfully opposing. The id (libido) is in a constant struggle with the ego’s need to suppress desire. Freud identifies five stages for psychosexual growth in infants: genital, latency (latency is the stage where sexual desire begins to develop), phallic and oral. Balanced individuals have managed to suppress the id’s more deplorable impulses with the help of their ego. It is important to recognize the oedipal complexity in male infants as it can be felt throughout the entire film. Male infants’ sexual development includes a desire for their mother. However, this is curtailed due to the fear that his father will castrate them. In an ideal scenario, he would suppress the desire to be with his mother while still holding on to her affection. The boy’s relationship with his dad should strengthen his masculinity. Freud believes that the Oedipus problem is not resolved when a father is absent, as in the narrative, or if his role is weak. This leads to obsessions. The narrator, who is affected, manifests his id in sexual excess (the encounter with Marla), violence (the sadomasochistic exchanges in Fight Club), as well as a desire to destroy the culture he believes has taken away his masculinity. Castration is a constant theme throughout the film. It’s most evident in the scene where the men of the ‘Remaining Men Together’ support group are crying and demonstrating their desperate need to affirm: “We are still men.” The narrator, who is a member of Project Mayhem, faces the castration as punishment in several situations. Tyler makes it clear how important the apparatus is in his speech at the bar following the condo explosion.
You can understand the neurotic behavior better if you look at the theories and practices of other Psychoanalytictheorists. Carl Gustav Jung was initially a Freudian. Jung, however, came to the conclusion that Freud had not given enough consideration to religion and spirit in his psychological analysis. Jung was a student of Freud and studied his theory that all personalities have two conflicting aspects, which he named ‘Ego.’ And ‘Shadow. The concept of Jung’s ‘physical heritage’ (collective subconscious) and its archetypes can be applied to the other characters of the film. Marla is an example of the anima. This is the female version of a man’s soul. Bob may also represent a Mana Archetype. The narrator can relate to Bob’s life because of his emasculated state. Jung believed in a Mana-personality, which is a dominant archetype, a mighty man who can be a hero, a chief, a magician, a medicine-man or a saint. He also believed it was the most common archetype, that of the mighty men. This is why the narrator often refers to him in the thirdperson. At first he uses the voice of the body and then the voice that represents emotions. In many instances, he says things like “I’m Jack’s coldness” or “I’m Jack’s total lack of surprise.”
Lacan’s late work presented Lacan with a layered view of the personality. He introduced the concepts of the Imaginary (the Unconscious), the Symbolic (consciousness as formulated in language and through society), and Real (that that resists representation). Lacan believed that the Law of the Father is what keeps these layers in check. Lacan thought that the Law of the Father was the acceptance and authority of the father. The Law was manifested in the language structure. Tyler Durden’s character takes on new meanings when seen from a Lacanian viewpoint. The character of Tyler Durden takes on a different meaning when viewed from a Lacanian perspective. In this sense, he is the Ikea model for manhood, the projection of the ideal self of the narrator, and fits the society’s view of a muscular, handsome modern male. It is possible to find a wide agreement between Freud’s, Jung’s, and Lacan’s work, with the exception of the more complex linguistic component of Lacan. Freud was Jung’s mentor and this is understandable. The ideas of id/ego/shadow/ego are similar. They differ in how they perceive libido. Lacan applies Freudian theory to his interdisciplinary works, but he reformulates the work by introducing language, structuralism, and linguistics into the continuum.
This essay attempts to apply the theories established by several twentieth-century psychoanalytical theory to David Fincher’s adaptation of American contemporary literature. In the narrator we saw a modernist Everyman who was the ideal vehicle for showing the neuroses of the present day; meaninglessness, and emptiness. The film introduces a specter: that even in the age of post-feminism, males still lack a fulfilling role. Although the ending of the film is unclear, it does allow the viewer to understand the narrator’s story to a certain extent. Palahniuk’s ending is more fitting in that the narrator was imprisoned after he freed Tyler Durden. The ending of Palahniuk’s book is more appropriate, as the narrator, after freeing himself from Tyler Durden, is imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital. This may seem like a logical end, but it shows the narrator’s struggle to function without Tyler.
Freud Sigmund. Joyce Crick. Introduction and notes by Ritchie Robertson.
Freud Sigmund – ‘The Essentials of Psychoanalysis. The Ego and id’, 1986, P. 450
According to Sigmund Freud, in his work ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’, the compulsion of a person to repeat an experience, even though it may be painful, is a result of the death drive.
Freud, Sigmund ‘Beyond Pleasure Principle.