“Two sides? You’re Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Jackass.”
-Marla Singer, Fight Club
It is nearly impossible to read about the narrator and his alter persona, Tyler Durden, in Chuck Palahniuk’s critically acclaimed novella, Fight Club, without thinking about another well-known twosome, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Fight club follows a personage known as The Narrator, who suffers from insomnia and has lost all faith in his life. He attends numerous support groups to release his inner feelings. His life takes an unanticipated turn as he encounters Tyler, his alter persona, and commences fight club. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is apropos of a renowned doctor, Dr. Jekyll, who skirmishes with parting his good from his evil. As a result of his experimentations, he formulates a potion that allows him to metamorphose into Mr. Hyde. Despite sharing the theme of human duality, Fight Club and its Victorian age parallel, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde take different paths when it comes to portraying the idea of dual personalities and dissociative identity disorder.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) “is a mental disorder characterized by at least two distinct and relatively enduring identities or dissociated personality states that alternately show in a person’s behavior”. This particularly significant dysfunctionality is at the center of many classic and modern works as authors try to propose the possibility of a “dichotomous system of consciousness within each of us.” With reference to the two works, the question arises, how are dual personalities portrayed in the controversial cult classic, Fight Club and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
As both novels are canonized in English literature, many studies of scholarly nature have separately analyzed duality in each work, with rare and slight allusions to the other work. There are few studies that have anatomized the works in relation to one another with depth and detail in every aspect. Kirsten Stirling’s writings in the book “Refracting the Canon in Contemporary British Literature and Film” and Heike Schwarz’s “Beware of the Other Side(s): Multiple Personality Disorder and DID in American fiction” are illustrious examples of such research. Consequently, this essay has been written with the purpose of contributing something important to the previous scholarly studies, by not only considering the slightest partings and overlaps in the path of the two narratives but also by comparing them and discovering how they affect the course of each novel, whether similarly or differently.
In order to answer the research question, I will analyze both works in terms of the following similarities and differences. Both narratives revolve around characters who represent manifestations of evil, which can be explained using the psychoanalytic concept. The narratives are also linked by the analogous themes of devolution, isolation, and the fundamental conflict between man and himself. Yet, it is undeniable that the works diverge their paths when considering the narrative perspective, and the various aspects of each character’s duality, such as inner confrontation.