Order in Disorder: Exploring Chaos Theory in the Narrative Structure of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club

Nur Aainaa Amira Mohd Said, Arbaayah Ali Termizi


Chaologists believe that our actions, albeit small, play prominent roles in shaping the reality which we live in. It is believed that within the chaotic nature of our world, there is a complex system in its randomness. Yet, these seemingly random events have organised patterns such as weather and natural events which may be constantly predicted but they never be completely predetermined. This is the basis of chaos theory which identifies and examines these unseen, disorderly pattern in our world. Similarly, Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club (1996) tells the story of an unnamed narrator who is trapped in the seemingly disordered string of events. However, there is a point of equilibrium in the unnamed narrator’s life before it branches out into the disequilibrium caused by individuals who influence his string of decision when one reads into the text. By utilising main elements of chaos theory and Tzvetan Todorov’s narrative theory, this study explores the relationship between the strange attractors and the unnamed narrator’s string of decisions. Although the text is narrated in his jumbled train of thoughts, Fight Club’s narrative structure can be reconstructed to provide a clearer look on his gradual descent into chaos. As a result, this study shows that there is a parallelism between narratology and quantum physic theory and the possibility to incorporate them in analysing the narrative structure of literature.


Keywords: chaos theory; butterfly effect; strange attractors; Todorov’s narrative structure; literature

Full Text:



Bernaerts, L. (2009). Fight Club and the Embedding of Delirium in Narrative. Style. Vol. 43(3), 373-387.

Bruner, J. (1991). The Narrative Construction of Reality. Critical Inquiry. Vol. 18, 1-21.

Cambel, A.B. (1993). Applied Chaos theory: A Paradigm for Complexity. London: Academic Press.

“Chaos Theory.” Def. 1. English Oxford Living Dictionary. Retrieved April, 9 2017 from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/chaos_theory

Cohen, R. (1991). Editorial Adjustments in American Psycho. New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2020 from https://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/18/books/editorial-adjustments-in-american-


Davis, A. M. (2006). American Psychosis: Violence and the White Male Oppression Narrative. MA Thesis, University of Houston Clear Lake, Texas, United States.

Dwyarie, R. D. & Tjahjani, J. (2019). Intercultural Concepts in Place Cliché by Jacques Godbout. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies. Vol. 25(3), 137-149.

Fludernik, M. (2009). An Introduction to Narratology. Routledge.

Flores, R. (2002). A Portrait of Don Quixote from the Palette of Chaos Theory. Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America. Vol. 22(1), 43-70.

Gleick, J. (1988). Chaos: Making a New Science. New York: Viking.

Hassan, R. & Mehdi, A. S. (2012). The Chaotic World and the Entropic Crisis in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. Sheikhbahaee EFL Journal. Vol. 1(1), 83-96.

Hayles, N. K. (1990). Chaos and Order: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science. New York: Cornell University Press.

Jacobsen, K. (2013). Chuck Palahniuk: Beyond the Body - A Representation of Gender in Fight Club, Invisible Monsters and Diary. MA Thesis, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.

Kelly, G. (2012). Titanic anniversary: The myth of the unsinkable ship. BBC Future. Retrieved March 11, 2020 from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20120402-the-myth-of-the-unsinkable-ship

Khamees Ragab Aman, Y. (2007). Chaos Theory and Literature from an Existentialist Perspective. CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture. Vol. 9(3), 1-8.

Lee, H. (2006). A Structural Study of Narrative: Two Types of Narrative Transformations. Research on Foreign Language Education (Bulletin). Vol. 1(12), 59-69.

Lewis, D., Rodgers, D., & Woolcock, M. (2008). The Fiction of Development: Literary Representation as a Source of Authoritative Knowledge. The Journal of Development Studies. Vol. 44(2), 198-216.

Lorenz, E. (1972). The Butterfly Effect. In Abraham, R. & Ueda, Y. (Eds.). The Chaos Avant-garde: Memories of the Early Days of Chaos Theory (pp. 91-94). World Scientific.

Nabilu, A. (2014). Analyzing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The English Literature Journal. Vol. 1(1), 38-43.

Palahniuk, C. (1996). Fight Club. London: Vintage Books.

Pellerin, A. R. (2015). Fear, Anxiety, and Systemic Violence: Leftovers from the Love-Hate Relationship with Capitalism in Millennial Narratives. MA Thesis, San Diego State University, California,

United States.

Prigogine, l. & Stengers, I. (1984). Order out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature. Bantam Books.

Pritzker, E. C. (2014). Tom Stoppard: Humanizing Chaos. Paper 401. FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations.

Scott, T. (2009). Dangerous Writing: Understanding and Political Economy of Composition. Utah: Utah State University Press.

Shahizah Ismail Hamdan & Dinnur Qayyimah Ahmad Jalaluddin. (2019). Relationship Ideals in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies. Vol.

(3), 106-114.

Taum, Y. Y. (2018). The Problem of Equilibrium in the Panji Story: A Tzvetan Todorov’s Narratology Perspective. International Journal of Humanity Studies. Vol. 2(1), 90-100.

Todorov, T. (1969). Structural Analysis of Narrative. NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction. Vol. 3(1), 70-76.

Todorov, T. (1971). The 2 Principles of Narrative. Diacritics. Vol. 1(1), 37-44.

Tritton, D. (1993). Chaos in the Swing of Pendulum. In Hall, N. (Ed.). Exploring Chaos: A Guide to the New Science of Disorder (pp. 22-32). New York: W. W. Norton.

Tyson, L. (2006). Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. New York: Routledge.

White, H. (1980). The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality. Critical Inquiry. Vol. 7(1), 5-27.

Wilson, S. J. (2008). (Cult)Ural Capital: Post-Consumerism and Post-Abjection in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. MA Thesis, University of Regina, Ottawa, Canada.

Yas, K. A., Ali Termizi, A., Talif, R., & Kaur, H. (2017). The Butterfly Effect Hits Complicité: A Chaotic Reading of Mnemonic and A Disappearing Number. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English

Language Studies. Vol. 23(2), 109-122.

Yas, K. A., Ali Termizi, A., Talif, R., & Kaur, H. (2018). From Natural Selection to the Sentient Symphony of Life: A Chaotic Reading of Wertenbaker’s After Darwin. GEMA Online® Journal of Language

Studies. Vol. 18(1), 161-175.

Yazdani, S. & Ross, S. (2019). Carl Rogers’ Notion of “Self-actualization” in Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies. Vol. 25(2),


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17576/3L-2020-2602-03


  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2247

ISSN : 0128-5157