Rhetoric to Recruit Radicals: Tropes and Schemes in Fight Club monologues
Everyone knows the first two rules of fight club. “You do not talk about fight club.” The film based on a book of the same name is highly quotable, which likely has something to do with its place as a widely recognizable film and cult classic. But surely this can’t be the only reason that the film from 1999 based on a book from 1996 remains a cultural staple in 2013. Beyond quoteability there are forces at work in this film that make it a cult classic, and keep it alive in today’s rapidly changing culture of flashes and fads.
Tyler Durden, an anarchist revolutionary played by Brad Pitt, is introduced and dramatically changes the life of the unnamed insomniac main character of the film played by Edward Norton. This reckless character is enthralling in his opposition to the capitalist lifestyle that the narrator and much of the films audience have accepted. This exciting agent of chaos makes the film the staple that it is. Throughout the film he has several monologues and lines that challenge the lives we live and present an intriguingly different ideology.
He suggests at one point of the film, “You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your f---ing khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.” These claims juxtapose contrastingly with the narrators consumerist life. Before meeting Tyler the narrator has an inner monologue about the comfort of buying furniture, the comfort in knowing that when you bought a sofa, at least that was one problem in your life solved. Consumerism at its finest.
In, perhaps, Tyler Durden’s most famous monologue from both the film and book, he delivers the rules of fight club. This creatively written delivery has many aspects of plain style writing, as would be expected from a set of rules. They are made more memorable, however, by a distinct set of schemes which revolve mainly around the word ‘fight.’ If we look at rules three through seven, which are as follows: “Third rule of Fight Club: if someone yells 'stop!', goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: no shirts, no shoes. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to,” we see epistrophe in rules three and four as fight is used at the end of both these rules. We also see anaphora as rules five and seven reiterate “fight” at their beginnings. There is also a parallelism throughout these rules that aids in memorization for both film watchers and the members of Fight Club.
The second monologue that I chose is a sort of call to action that Tyler makes, again in front of fight club. Although this second monologue uses parallelism its tropes are what make it notable. In this speech Tyler uses hyperbole when he calls the members of fight club “strongest and smartest men who've ever lived.” This is used in the intro and perhaps a method to flatter his audience. He uses auxesis calling the men “slaves with white collars.” This makes their station in life seen much worse than it is. This is likely to rile them up so that they will act on his agenda. Finally Tyler alludes to the “Great Depression” of “our” lives and out “Great War” a spiritual war. These allusions have a similar effect to the auxesis.
By the end of the film there is a desire in the reader to to take on Corporate America a desire to disregard social norms and start fights with our friends. The audience wants to know what it feels like to be as alive as Tyler seems. Here lies the success of the movie. There is an intense reliability, made more impressive by the fact that we, the audience, are relating to a character who is extremely radical in his defiance of the common American ideology. This all speaks to the intensity and mastery of rhetorical devices.