The Narrator of ‘Fight Club’ is an unnamed “thirty-year-old boy” who works in the recall division of the Federated Motor Corporation. He is a middle class well paid worker, one who defines himself through his possessions and meekly lets his boss– and everyone else– walk all over him. He is also an insomniac; seeking a cure.
While a pitiful character, the Narrator is not a nice person. Of course, he is extremely psychologically disturbed, but he is also essentially weak and seeks validation through others’ opinions of him. Besides this, he is a liar. He goes to support groups and pretends to be suffering in order to get attention; he gets his boss fired by falsely accusing him of abuse; he constantly plays Marla’s emotions. His only strength comes from deceiving those who are at a disadvantage to him. However, he lacks real control, even over his own actions. The Narrator cannot even control his own imaginary friend. Nevertheless, the Narrator somehow ends up being a sympathetic character, perhaps because the viewers see themselves in him.
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.
Marla is a young woman already disillusioned with life. She smokes, she steals laundry, she crosses the street without looking both ways. She has no care for herself, and she never seems truly fulfilled. She does not get the form of healing that the Narrator does at the support groups, and even when having sex, she isn’t really happy. Her main role in the movie is that of catalyst; she is the reason that the Narrator becomes unsatisfied with his support groups and seeks catharsis from Fight Club.
Marla is, unfortunately, badly used by the Narrator. He resents her from the first time he saw her, blaming her for being a support group “tourist.” However, not only is he doing the same thing, Marla at least uses her real name in the groups. He calls her and then hangs up on her when his condo blows up, and he ignores her admitted “cry for help” when she tries to commit suicide. He rejects her and the help she offers him because she is a reflection of himself, one that he doesn’t like. He’d rather be like Tyler.
Marla truly loves the Narrator. He is the one she calls when she’s dying and when she thinks she has breast cancer. She continues sleeping with him despite the fact that he constantly psychologically abuses her. She is moved when he admits that he “likes” her, and she holds his hand as skyscrapers fall around them. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to return her love. He resents her presence, constantly feeling that she is an intruder. First she invades “his” support groups, then his heart chakra, and then his life with Tyler. Although he is attracted to her, he doesn’t appear to have any real affection for her. Even at the end of the movie, he uses her; after all, whatever happens to him after the last scene, whether it be jail or an insane asylum, will leave her alone again.
When the narrator first meets Tyler, Tyler declares that he is a soap salesman, although Tyler has various other occupations including a night-time movie projectionist and a waiter. Tyler, however, most identifies himself with the job of selling soap, thus lending weight to the symbolic importance played by soap in the movie. Tyler calls soap “the foundation of civilization” and tells the narrator that “the first soap was made from the ashes of heroes”. He also uses lye, a chemical ingredient of soap, to introduce the narrator to the pain of “premature enlightenment.” In this role, soap is a symbol of purification and cleanliness, of a culture lacking the hypocrisy and fraudulence of contemporary culture. However, in that Tyler makes soap by stealing fat from the liposuction clinic dumpsters and then sells these soaps “to department stores for $20 a bar”, soap also represents a too highly refined culture, a culture where all traces of natural humanity are suppressed, effaced, washed off. Rather than being made from the “ashes of heroes”, soap is made from “selling rich women their own fat asses.” The fact that Tyler is a salesman for this product represents Jack’s subservience to this culture.