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Option 2: Violence and Masculinity - Essay Example

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Violence and Masculinity: Fight Club. Introduction. The debut novel Fight Club (Palahniuk, 1996) relates the experiences of a man who starts out suffering from insomnia and sets out on a long journey of self-discovery as he tries to come to terms with this devastating affliction…
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Option 2: Violence and Masculinity
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Download file to see previous pages One of the key points that the book makes is that the main character is somehow incomplete until he finds some sort of group identity. He attends self-help groups for sufferers of cancer, and fakes illness himself, in order to belong to the group. This is not normal behaviour. Through the mysterious character Tyler Durden he participates in the setting up of a semi-secret “Fight Club” where otherwise normal and well-adjusted men fight beat each other with bare fists. The message of the book appears to be that men in modern Western societies are unable to function well unless they indulge in an extreme and violent kind of male bonding. The book has a kind of ultra-male cult following and this raises some interesting questions about masculinity and violence in contemporary Western societies. Gender theory and masculinity. From the middle of the twentieth century there has been a gradual redefining of what it means to be a man in modern western societies. Instead of a straightjacket of male and female roles, fixed by biology and rigidly maintained in a patriarchal social order, there is a more nuanced and flexible social order. Feminism and a drift away from conservative values have eroded old certainties. (Kimmel, 1997, p. 261) People act on the principle that gender is socially constructed, and draw upon a wider range of strategies to define themselves in day to day life. For many people the loosening of gender boundaries has been liberating but for the characters in this book, there is a dark side to modern pluralist society. The narrator in Fight Club perceives that the stereotypes of the strong and dominant male are no longer required, and the book shows how many men struggle with the need to adjust to this situation. The novel presents a number of artificial mechanisms for dealing with this. One mechanism is mimicry of the ideal sensitive male role, which the narrator manages to do in the support groups, and another is the manufactured battle between men for heroic status and the self-respect that comes from the old notions of duelling opponents. The fight club is a retrograde step, and the men who belong to it know that they must creep into the venue quietly and above all remain silent about what happens there, lest this last piece of their dying culture be removed from them. It is a form of resistance: “Fight Club is structured to rescue men of honor from the dishonorable offices to which contemporary American culture has relegated them.” (Boon, 2003, p. 270) The motivation is ultimately nostalgia for a past that is disappearing. Violence and Masculinity: inevitable or open to change? It is clear that there is something unusual and disturbing about the first person narrator in Fight Club. A clue to this is in the scene with Bob where he experiences at second hand the tragedy that Bob has suffered in having testicular cancer: “Crying is right at hand in the smothering dark, closed inside someone else, when you see how everything you can ever accomplish will end up as trash.” (Palahniuk, 1996, p. 17) The narrator knows that his presence at the group is based on lies, that his grief is not authentic, and that he does not deserve the kindness of the men he meets there, but nevertheless the faked emotion that he expresses is an outlet of his own despair. He sees no hope for himself, or for others: “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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