Losing All Hope Is FreedomChuck Palahniuk, an American novelist from Vancouver, Washington, is best known for his novel Fight Club, which later was adapted into a cult classic film. His literary works have marked him as a nihilist, though he refutes the claims. For one to fully understand his writings, one must first look into his past, which isn’t as dark and disturbed as his novels would lead one to believe. As a child, Palahniuk’s parents divorced and often left him and his siblings with their grandparents in Eastern Washington. As an adult, he worked as a diesel mechanic and wrote manuals on how to fix trucks. Before he started writing, Palahniuk attended free writing seminars. In search of a better, more fulfilled life, Palahniuk quit his job and began volunteering as a driver for the terminally ill, but quit when a patient with whom he had befriended passed away. The death of this friend may have aided in the molding of Palahniuk’s radical views of life. In his novels Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, and Choke, Palahniuk uses a profound group of characters to illustrate his idea that humans beings, as a whole, are conditioned by society to strive for all the false comforts of life. This ultimately reveals the idea that in order for one to experience true freedom, he must abandon all ties with civilization, and realize that what we want is only a product of what society wants for us.
In Fight Club, Palahniuk uses a nameless narrator with an anarchist alerter ego, named Tyler Durden, to convey his views of society. In the beginning of the novel, the sleep deprived narrator writes haikus in lieu of filing accident reports at his much loathed job. One such Haiku read, “Without just one nest/ A bird can call the world home/ Life is your career.” (Fight Club, Palahniuk 64) The haiku is simple in form, but extremely profound at its core. Through the haiku, Palahniuk implies that because we have homes,
and loved ones, we are prevented from experiencing the world as it was intended. “Without just one nest” implies that one must leave home in order for him to truly and freely see the world. In Palahniuk’s eyes, however, “home” is not just where you live, eat and sleep, but rather the world in its entirety. Even if one were to expel himself from his home town, he will relocate to a new town with the same rules, and restrictions. No, one must do more than move away; one must abandon society, and live by his own rites. If one can bring himself to abandon all he has been trained to cherish, then he will have the ability few men have experienced; the ability to live your life freely and truly. The final line, “Life is your career,” is the most powerful line in the haiku. Once the line has been crossed, and a man abandons all ties to society, he can acknowledge life as it is. Life, simply, is surviving and dying. Surviving and dying; nothing more.
“This was freedom. Losing all hope was freedom.” (Fight Club, Palahniuk 22) A morbid thought, to say the least, but the thought only adds to the argument of abandoning all one has ever known. All people are told what they are expected to want. We all want to be successful. We all want to live in a mansion. We all want to drive the car of our dreams. But the foundation of the dream is false. It was bred into us. It is not what we want. This conditioning of the human spirit is what must be lost. We must realize that no matter what we do, no matter what rules we set, we are all going to die, and there is nothing we can do about it. In order for us to experience the freedom of life and freedom of the spirit, we must abandon all hope, and acknowledge the fact that we are all going to die. Nothing we do will matter, and until we realize this, we will always be fighting to support the dreams which should never have plagued our minds.
Later in the novel, Palahniuk states, “It’s only after we’ve lost everything, that we’re free to do anything,” (Fight Club, Palahniuk 83 ) meaning that in order for us to break away from these dreams, we have to take drastic measures to lose the ones who have put them into our heads. We must separate ourselves from the brainwashed zombies of our time, or face being dragged into their spirit trapping lives. The line, “Maybe self improvement isn’t the answer… Maybe self destruction was the answer” (Fight Club, Palahniuk 49), implies that we must stop trying to expand. Improvement in medicine may yield a longer life, but why? We are taught to always want more. Always seek answers and find solutions. No exceptions. But self destruction yields a different result entirely. We need to stop trying to improve. We need to stop where we are and recede back to our primitive nature. Only then will we truly be free. We will lose all the laws and morals that bind us, and live as we were meant to live.
Choke is Palahniuk’s fourth book, which is narrated by a sex addict living a dead-end life. In many instances in the novel, the narrator, Victor Mancini, speaks of how life would be so much more peaceful if only we could separate ourselves with what society demands of us. At the end of the novel Mancini states, "We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we were. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves" (Choke, Palahniuk 292). At this stage in the novel, Mancini is realizing that he is not who he thought he was. He is who the world told him he is. He is conveying to the reader that society may judge us and society may press it’s ideas and morals upon us, but as long as we acknowledge who we really want to be, society will no longer clench us in it’s spirit crushing fists. We are what we are. If one were seeking freedom, he would first need to decide for himself what truly mattered to him. What he really feels is good or bad, not what he was taught to be good or bad. Until we decide for ourselves, we will never be free. Until we break free from the trance, we will never live freely.
We've all heard of God in one form or another. But who is God? He's you're savior or he's a myth. The mere fact that we understand what the word 'God' means is proof that society has plagued our minds. When Mancini follows his mother's doctor into the chapel of the hospital, the doctor says to Mancini, "its pathetic how we can't live with the things we can't understand" (Choke, Palahniuk 89). When people couldn't explain the sun, the wind, the ocean, lava, anything unconceivable, they had to make up something to appease their ever expanding cerebral cortex and cerebellum. So, they created God. Palahniuk uses this scene to emphasize the fact that we are conditioned by society to want all the false comforts life has to offer. Society created God, and then they used God to explain to us what we want out of life. Man created God because they needed to feel that they had found an answer. But, with a God, comes "sins". When man created God, man created the perfect base for all lies. All battles could be blamed on their new discovery. So, when man doesn’t like something, we put it on the list of the unexplainable. How can we refute what God has said? Theft, murder and lying can all be abolished by abolishing society. What point would there be if we all were put on the same level as the animals. Man is the only animal who kills his own kind. In the wild, all animals fight for their survival, and they do just that. They survive and they do so without a society or a God or a government. When the world realizes this, we will no longer need to lock up our cars, our homes, or anything of value, as nothing will have value. We will be left with the tools of our survival. So, forget about God, forget about laws, forget about morals, as they are all lies created by a generation of people so far gone we can only see them in air tight cases at the museum.
In this age of knowledge, we have yet to find a cure for our depression, anxiety, and anger. Well, the fact is, we can't cure these, because they were instilled in us from the day we were born. The fact that we have the brain power to write term papers is evidence of our failure. We have asked for this. People, as a whole, have made this all too real. When Mancini speaks with his mother about the complications of life, he states, "You don't see goldfish agonized by wild mood swings. Sponges never have a bad day" (Choke, Palahniuk 150). Goldfish and sponges are as much animals as we are. The only difference between us is simple: we need to over complicate everything. We hope for salvation, therefore, we avoid life. We would rather bust our asses inside an office than hunt for our own food, or make our own clothes, or hide from our natural enemies. If we abandon all hope that we will be saved by technology, we will be saved in spirit. When we give up on society, we will live on our own, and never have to have a bad day again. There will be nothing to cause it. We will live and we will die, and everything else will be nothing more than details.
In his novel Invisible Monsters, Palahniuk explains to his readers, through the use of a narrator who lacks a lower jaw, the importance of the recognition of self and the importance of straying away from what society wants us to feel. The horribly disfigured narrator states, “This was the biggest mistake I could think would save me. I wanted to give up the idea that I had any control. Shake things up. To be saved by chaos. To see if I could cope, I wanted to force myself to grow again. To explode my comfort zone” (Invisible Monsters, Palahniuk 286). The narrator decided this before the shot her own face off, because she realized this was the only way to force herself to grow. Not grow into a better person, but grow into her own person. She wanted to be free. She states, “I wanted the everyday reassurance of being mutilated. The way a crippled, deformed, birth-defected, disfigured girl can drive her car with the windows open and not care how the wind makes her hair look, that’s the ,kind of freedom I was after” (Invisible Monsters, Palahniuk 286). She wanted the security of knowing that even if she ideas forced into her from he beginning tried to resurface, she would have the mutilation to keep it back, and force herself to expand even more.
Furthermore, the narrator’s travel companion tells her that, “the world is your cradle and your trap” (Invisible Monsters, Palahniuk 219), meaning that the world is her home, and she has the power to make it so. But until everyone in the world abandons hope of the future, and lives like we were meant to live, than she will always face the trap of being dragged back into the downhill spiral of social exchange. This is true of all people. Until we all make this choice, there will always be someone trying to bring us back to their way. Though we will know why we chose our path, and they only follow theirs because as far as they know, it’s the way it’s always been, they will not be convinced of our freedom. If one wishes to experience freedom, he must live each day like it was his last. He will need to discover what he would truly desire if no rules applied to him, and once he is free, he will realize that the rules never did apply to him, as they never applied to anyone. Once this is instilled in him, he will realize that nothing is more important than abandoning all he was taught, as he will surely realize that it was all a lie.