My name is Caleb Michael Sarvis. I’m a writer, a thinker, and currently a self-reflective incubator. Welcome to a blog series in which I’ll be analyzing both the practical and interesting ways imaginary characters can play in fiction, including The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien, 2014’s Best Picture Winner Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and other short fiction.
In Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, Tyler Durden is a vehicle through which Sebastian discovers his real-self. Where Sebastian, the narrator, doesn’t necessarily understand what he wants, Tyler Durden is consistently taking action towards acquiring what he wants. Early on before the reader knows that Tyler and Sebastian are the same person, Sebastian muses the concept that the fight club version of himself isn’t the same as his real-life self,
“ Who guys are in fight club is not who they are in the real world. Even if you told the kid in the copy center that he had a good fight, you wouldn’t be talking to the same man.
Who I am in fight club is not someone my boss knows,” (Palahniuk, 49).
The narrator already admits that there is conflict within him, but fight club alone isn’t enough for the writer to really explore the nature of his character. The reader needs a specific access to interiority that offers a broader picture than a swollen face and a black eye, so the writer allows the narrator to invent Tyler Durden. Tyler is the first person to punch Sebastian in the face, the action that starts the narrative engine. The decision by a writer to include the imaginary character gives them a range in which to operate that may not have previously existed, providing additional depth to their story. In the Lord of the Rings series, the character Smeagol deals with a similar struggle. Where Tyler Durden represents Sebastian’s raw physical desires, Gollum represents the selfish greed that haunts Smeagol. The ring may have been the catalyst, but Gollum became the acting representative, and as consequence, pushed Smeagol to murder and thieve, thus ruining his life. In his “First Manifesto of Surrealism,” Andre Breton argues that the writer becomes modest as he grows older, and as a result he turns to his childhood. The writer does this, Breton says, because, “There, the absence of any known restrictions allows him the perspective of several lives lived at once; this illusion becomes firmly rooted within him; now he is only interested in the fleeting, the extreme facility of everything,” (Breton 3). By looking at the different forms of the imaginary in The Third Policeman (novel), Birdman (screenplay), and pieces by Chris Adrian and Jason Ockert (short fiction), we will see the kind of opportunities the this reversion to childhood can provide for the writer, specifically through the functional interest of the imaginary character.
Breton, Andre. “The First Manifesto on Surrealism”.
1924 (translated 2010). PDF File.
Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.