According to the DVD-commentary of Fight Club by director David Fincher, the “Chemical Burn” – scene is the turning point in the narrative. The narrator’s imaginary alter ego Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) exposes the anonymous narrator (Edward Norton) to unbearable pain by kissing his hand and pouring lye on the saliva. The latter and lye cause a chemical reaction that results in a scarring burn. It is at this moment of utter pain that Tyler reveals the foundational mechanism of culture to the suffering narrator: “Without pain, without sacrifice we would have nothing.” A less painful way for them to reach this insight would have been to read their Girard. My point here is that this scene could have come straight from Violence and the Sacred.
From this moment on, Tyler and the narrator act according to their revelatory insight and try to found a new culture by expulsing the existing culture through the violence of the fight clubs. However, they are not aware that, as René Girard has pointed out, the foundational mechanism of scapegoating is weakened in our modern society. While the decadent culture of capitalism they are opposing perishes – they perish with it. What remains is contagious violence out of control – a sacrificial crisis that cannot be any longer solved through the expulsion of a scapegoat. The result of Tyler’s and the narrator’s use of violence is, unsurprisingly, violence without end.