The Cigarette Burn Motif in Fight Club

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The motif that I’m going to talk about in this film analysis of Fight Club is going to be about cigarette burns. At Tyler’s projectionist job he has to watch for a circular mark in the corner of the screen. The mark is called a cigarette burn and would indicate to the person working it is time to change the film reel. This shows us that the cigarette burn is a secret sign that what seems whole, the film, is actually made of parts, the separate film reels. The cigarette burn motif helps support the theme of the rebellion of parts. The film is full of cigarette burns, and small signals of the shift between Tyler and the narrator. In a way, Tyler and the narrator are like the two film reels. They are actually different parts of the same story. For example, Tyler is a night person and a narrator is a day person. When Tyler turns the narrator’s hand with the chemicals, he tells him this burn will hurt worse than a hundred cigarette burns.

Throughout the film, even before we know about the explanation of cigarette burns, I noticed that there were parts where you could see a flash of something showing up on the screen, but at first, I thought I was just seeing things. Until we get the scene where Tyler and the narrator are talking about his job in the theater where he has to change the films and Tyler ends up putting in scenes from adult films in the other movies. This gives the explanation to as why I kept on seeing the flashes of whatever had been coming up. I guess it would be a fourth wall break in the film when what they’re saying is happening during the film actually shows up during the actual film.

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The motif of the cigarette burns symbolizes the theme of the rebellion of rejected parts. The rejected parts are the psychological part of the narrator’s mind that makes up Tyler. In the film when a character rejects a part of themselves, that part of them refuses to stay hidden, kind of like a literal cigarette burn on someone’s hand, and that a rejected part of them will rebel; it eventually comes out of hiding. Tyler is a rejected part of the narrator that takes on the qualities of a whole person, basically the narrator’s darker side. They both initially want the same things to happen, to rebel against the parenting they grew up with, and to find comfort in a tough, adventurous, male bond. They want to fight rather than rest, content with pain-free potlucks and the need to stop cruel product testing on animals and other moral attitudes of middle-class life. The difference between them, in the beginning, is that only Tyler has the nerve to start living the way the narrator wants to. They part ways for good when the narrator cannot bear to know people are being killed in the service of Project Mayhem. Ultimately the narrator tries to banish Tyler and he tries to reject the Tyler part of himself by shooting himself in the face. This attempt is to destroy the rejected part but also fails. Tyler/the narrator’s philosophy is already dispersed among the members of Project Mayhem and can’t be stopped even when the narrator tries to.

In Freud’s “Child Beaten” article he says, “It is surprising how often people who seek analytic treatment for hysteria or an obsessional neurosis confess to having indulged in the phantasy: ‘A child is being beaten.’ Very probably there are still more frequent instances of it among the far greater number of people who have not been obliged to come to an analysis by manifest illness”. I think that this relates to the film because of how it says “people who seek analytic treatment for hysteria or an obsessional neurosis confess to having indulged in the phantasy…” it basically gave me the thought of how the narrator is seeking a treatment for his insomnia at the beginning of the film by going to the different help groups, and also when he goes to fight club to forget about everything else going on. It’s also a “phantasy” because of how he’s making up Tyler as another person who’s living out some of the things that he wants.

Finally, the motif in Fight Club, the cigarette burns, indicates it is time to change the film reel. It also shows us that the cigarette burn is a secret sign that what seems whole, the film, is actually made of parts, the separate film reels. The cigarette burn motif helps support to the theme of rebellion of parts. The narrator rejecting the part of himself, who is Tyler, is an example of Freud’s “Child Beaten” theory and an example of a cigarette burn that can’t be hidden anymore.  

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The Cigarette Burn Motif in Fight Club. (2022, August 23). WritingBros. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-cigarette-burn-motif-in-fight-club/
“The Cigarette Burn Motif in Fight Club.” WritingBros, 23 Aug. 2022, writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-cigarette-burn-motif-in-fight-club/
The Cigarette Burn Motif in Fight Club. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-cigarette-burn-motif-in-fight-club/> [Accessed 29 Sept. 2022].
The Cigarette Burn Motif in Fight Club [Internet]. WritingBros. 2022 Aug 23 [cited 2022 Sept 29]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-cigarette-burn-motif-in-fight-club/
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