The beginning of Fight Club is all about how Edward Norton can't sleep, and his doctor refuses him sleep medication and instead refers him to go to the support groups at the local Church instead. So he pretends to be a part of all of these groups, and he sees true despair and can sleep again. When he finds Marla, another faker, it ruins it for him and he can't sleep again. When he finally confronts her, they have this conversation:

Norton: Now look. This is important, OK? These are my groups I've been coming here for over a year.

Marla: Why do you do it?

Norton: I don't know. When people think your dying they really, really listen to you instead of just--

Marla: --instead of just waiting for their turn to speak?

Norton: Yeah...yeah.

It is a nice conversation with the interesting piece of profundity about waiting for your turn to speak, but why doesn't he just admit off the bat it helps him sleep? Is he embarrassed? Is it no longer just about that for him? What am I missing?

Edit: It wouldn't be embarrassment since he presumably spent the last year baring his soul to strangers.

  • 3
    "he presumably spent the last year baring his soul to strangers" That term only applies if it was the truth. Jan 16, 2015 at 5:30
  • hence the term "presume" but I definitely see your point
    – chiliNUT
    Jan 16, 2015 at 5:57
  • I seem to remember (from the book) that he actually doesn't bare his soul to strangers - that he remains silent and everyone else assumes the worst.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 16, 2015 at 15:20
  • 1
    @iandotkelly he says that same thing in the movie too in an earlier scene, but that would seem to contradict the whole "people...really listen to you" thing
    – chiliNUT
    Jan 16, 2015 at 16:23
  • 2
    Side note: the doctor doesn't refer him to support groups in lieu of medication to help with his insomnia. Jack claims that he's "really hurting" so the doctor sarcastically tells him where he can meet people who are really hurting. In effect, "You're not hurting and you don't need meds. Go chew some valerian root and stop bugging me." Jun 5, 2015 at 15:17

2 Answers 2


I don't think he needed to discuss his insomnia. Insomnia is the product of him being stressed out, and the "medication" was him feeling like people cared about him. It's not unusual for people who have just met to cover up their deepest issues and only discuss those that lie on the fringe, and Norton chose to discuss how it helps him rather than why he needed the help in the first place.


Don't forget around the time he meets Marla, he really didn't like her and felt threatened by her. Of course he doesn't share his true problem, why would he? He's probably afraid she'd mock it, and knowing Marla she would.

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