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'We all end up mutilated': Bodily destruction and self-mutilation in the first three novels by Chuck Palahniuk


  • Jakob Eyjólfsson

Summary, in English

In this essay, I explore the motifs of bodily destruction and self-mutilation in the first three novels of American author Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996), Survivor (1999) and Invisible Monsters (1999). These motifs are prevalent throughout the author’s work and are particularly noteworthy in how detailed and graphic the novels are. In analysing the ways in which the characters of these novels engage in a variety of different self-destructive and self-mutilating behaviours, I seek to identify the thematic significance and narrative purpose of self-mutilation in Chuck Palahniuk’s work. I argue that, by engaging in fist fights, excessive exercise, use of steroids, suicide, extensive plastic surgery and deliberate facial disfigurement, the characters are reckoning with identity, agency and determinism. For these characters, I conclude, self-mutilation can be either a result of their helplessness and lack of agency, or a way to assert their own agency and identity.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Chuck Palahniuk Fight Club Survivor Invisible Monsters Self-Mutilation Self-Destruction Mutilation Disfigurement Determinism Free Will


  • Cian Duffy (Professor)