The Harvest vs Fight Club: Compare & Contrast
Consumerism is a critical theme of Chuck Palahniuk’s book, Fight Club. Advertising has become a ubiquitous element in American society and Palahniuk cleverly touches on the subject throughout his novel narrated in the first person. The book highlights the modern social culture which is essentially dominated by a materialistic approach towards life. Humans have become mere consumers whose needs are capitalized on by large conglomerates. In Chapter 4, Palahniuk mentions how someone the nameless protagonist knew now orders IKEA furniture from his bathroom, indicating the vulnerability of the modern man to consumerism. With increasing emphasis on materialism and appearance, rational considerations have become almost obsolete. The Harvest by Amy Hempel narrates a similar story where she has to go for surgery after her car accident. Supposedly, the man who has hit her car is covered by her blood but his “ruined” sweater is more significant to him than the person he has hit (n.pag.). Then follows discussions about her looks, whether they were crucial to her, and what would become of her in the coming future. The narrator then talks about people who she knew who got their appearance suffered; the chemistry teacher who lost his face after a lab explosion. The two stories are important in airing their thoughts about the socially constructed stereotypes of today and how humans are treated are consumers with needs and wants than emotionally contained beings.
Together with Tyler Durden, the protagonist from Fight Club forms an underground boxing club called Fight Club from where the book takes its name. Soon the club sees itself evolving into an organized collective, Project Mayhem, which seeks to transform the American societal hierarchy by replacing itself as the ruling class. The unnamed narrator in the book is critical of advertising and its deception as it makes buyers buy products that they actually do not need. Tyler explains how hardworking people spend their lives seeking good jobs that pay well but inevitably find themselves wasting money on things they do not need and all of this is because of advertising (Palahniuk, n.pag.). Only, in the beginning, the narrator mentions the common man becoming a slave to the “nesting instincts” of IKEA, the furniture retail giant (Palahniuk, n.pag.). With this, he explains how creatively constructed products just had to buy, although the product fulfilled the same need as its generic equivalent. Such was the power of creative content in the IKEA catalogs which spurred consumers to buy their products without having to consider if they really want this. Palahniuk explains the pervasiveness and the growing emphasis on the culture of commodities as they are sold by the capitalistic corporations. Towards the end, the narrator can be observed to have gotten over his obsession with unnecessarily catalog browsing and buying unwanted things. Throughout the book, Palahniuk stresses on the limitation put to life by indulging in consumerism and how the social culture is inculcating a materialistic concept to life.
In The Harvest, after the narrator has an accident, she goes through surgery. This is also when discussion on her “looks” starts as the lawyer tells her that she cannot become an air stewardess anymore and her marriageability. Then the narrator recalls knowing a neighbor who disfigured his face in an explosion. He had been a chemistry teacher but the incident cost him his wife and children as his wife moved out. She also speaks about a television show they used to watch on Wednesdays where women appeared on glamorous sets dressed elegantly only to “ruin one another” (Hempel, n.pag.). This shows the socially constructed notions of appearance and materialism which has been popularized through mass media thereby creating artificial concepts of looks and beauty. This also leads to the idea of how brands have created false notions of realities only to sell out their products. It is realized that human needs are insatiable and their wants are unlimited. Thus, consumers can be exploited by creating false concepts of beauty and looks to capitalize on these false concepts to make more and more money. Most advertisers make use of deceptive tactics to sell out their goods and because the people have been programmed to respond to such calls for purchases.
Palahniuk and Hempel have shown how their characters dwell in a society driven by the capitalistic collective exploiting them. The anti-consumerism critique is even more pronounced in Fight Club where the Project Mayhem founded by the narrator and Tyler seeks to crush such social issues that create false impressions.
Hempel, Amy. ‘The Harvest’. Pif Magazine. N. p., 1998. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <www.pifmagazine.com/1998/09/the-harvest/>.
Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996. Print.