Essay written for my Psychology class. Haven't received a grade on it, but I know my teacher thinks I plagiarized it, so it mustn't be that bad.
The Psychological Basis Placed Upon Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk is a novel that delves into the deepest corners of the human psyche and performs an intricate three sixty to emerge once more at its point of origin. On a wheel of cynicism the novel unfurls. With various satirical sideshows of the faux pas of society itself, along the way, Invisible Monsters allows the reader a thorough look of the book’s characters’ entrenched and twisted psychological thoughts and emotions, leaving the reader with a more profound understanding of it through its sardonic nature of people’s minds and the world which molds them.
Though the novel doesn't emit much intellectualism through its text, the author's style and ideology of society and its inhabitants shine brightly through the words and allows the reader to gain a new outlook through the character's eyes and become captivated by the character’s philosophies on life. Through the characters' progression in the novel, the emergence of their societal downward spiral becomes more apparent, especially in the situation of the protagonist, who remains unnamed through most of the novel but who at the end of the novel finally introduces herself as Shannon McFarland.
As the novel begins, the protagonist has everything that any person looking in could possibly desire: beauty, a well paying modeling job, and a handsome boyfriend, but this vision does not successfully do justice to the life is leading; it is merely the lifestyle which she expels to others.
In all actuality, she despises almost every aspect of her life and has replaced any hopeful ideas she might have once possessed to those of nihilistic thoughts. “Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I’ve ever known.” (104) The bases of these thoughts are not so much events that the protagonist has had any involvement in; rather it is the people and their ideas that have aided in forming these conceptions of the world. These people, mainly her parents, boyfriend, and best friend did not make her actualize the thoughts in their nascence, but once the ideas were initialized her in her mind, they aided the ideas themselves, to outwardly affect her actions and behavior.
The key factor in her cynicism of the world seems to be her parents and their attitudes toward her. Since the time of one specific significant incident and its aftermath, the protagonist has never been able to live up to the expectations of her parents. Since the death of the protagonist’s brother, Shane, she has never been able to live up to her parent’s “dead gay son” and thus now finds it nearly intolerable to be in any situation where close proximity of them will occur, because she knows that the topic of her “dead gay brother” is bound to arise. The irony in all this began with one incident where her brother was slightly disfigured due to a hairspray bottle in a trash can exploding. The ridicule emitting from her parents, seems to begin several months after the hairspray incident on the night that the protagonist’s parents discovered their son’s sexual orientation and as a result disowned him in an extremely hastily manner, fearful of the Gonorrhea he contracted during one of his “homosexual escapades”; that he had in truth contracted from a Special Contract Vice Operative.
Her parents overshadowing of her, angers the protagonist for the sheer absurdity of the situation; her brother has become more a part of the life of her parents than she is in life; she feels completely and utter ignored while in their presence; all she ever hears is relative to her brother and his death and how her parents can now honor his life through honoring his sexual orientation.
Her boyfriend, Manus has also contributed to her attentiveness to the dysfunction of society. The prime characteristic of Manus’s life that has seemed to unnerved her the most to life is his occupation. In professional terms, he can be labeled as that of an undercover officer, but in truth he is nothing more than a means to capture homosexual men in public restrooms to be apprehended and later charged with public lewdness. On basis of his occupation, simply put, gave the protagonist reasonable doubt on his sexual orientation, but what gave her further suspicion was when he would ask her how attractive he would be to the same sex, showing himself off, and asking her how he would look to a homosexual man. Because of Manus’ behavioral patterns and actions the protagonist is yet again pushed into her own world of only seeing things sardonically and without any happiness in the current situation which she lives.
Manus also influences the protagonist’s viewpoint through his past and how he has been connected to her and those around her. Later in the novel, she finally realizes that Manus did not enter her life on her first meeting with him; instead he was the cause of all that had ensued in her family pertaining to her and her brother. After the hairspray incident, he was the Special Contract Vice Operative; he was the one that had transmitted the Gonorrhea to the protagonist’s brother; he was the cause of her brother being disowned; he was the cause of her brother running away. Because of these events, she devises a plan to feed him hormone pills to make him a woman unknowingly, through Manus actions and her reiterating ones she propels her nihilistic approach of life.
The final person that seems to have made an impact on the protagonist before her accident is her best friend, Evie. Because of Evie, the protagonist is able to realize what exactly she hates anon in the novel and why she secretly hated her best friend. “…what I realize is mostly what I hate about Evie is the fact that she’s so vain and stupid and needy. But what I hate most is how she’s just like me.”(266) Through Evie she is able to realize that it was herself that she hated; it was her own compromisingly self of being “a product in a world of products” that contributed to the vast amount of disdain she felt towards people and society.
Though all these people influence the protagonist, they do not influence her wholly. Rather they only give a slight impact to her perception of life; instead the protagonist expels her own nihilistic idea solely by herself through one quality, beauty. She is a fashion model, thus it is safe to say, that she yields such an attribute, but this attribute is something that she brought her a constant inner conflict. She yearns to no longer have it; she wishes to have the “everyday reassurance of being mutilated.”(286), as she puts it.
Her dream indubitably comes true when her face becomes grotesquely disfigured in an unexpected accident and thus becomes what she has yearned for, an “invisible monster”. Once, this disfigurement occurs to her, she is not sure how to cope with it however; she does not fully comprehend that what has happened is the thing that she has coveted for the most. Because of this, she goes on a journey of both self- hatred and self- realization. Through this journey, she is finally able to grasp all the events of the past and what they have meant to her and how they have helped to shape her thoughts and who she is presently.
All the prior people influenced the protagonist’s ideas about the world she lives in, but it was one; the one who was more or less the guide of her journey, who finally allowed her to free herself and do as she wished in search of a new present, future and even past; a transsexual by the name of Brandy Alexander. The two characters meet after the protagonist’s accident and she is in the hospital. Brandy and her accompanied by a kidnapped but later willing Manus drive around the country and to parts of Canada devising plans to steal every hormone and prescription drugs they can scheme out of wealthy people. Through their journey, they learn that the truth about each other and the answers to all their questions. In the end, the protagonist finds what she had yearned for was not all that which she had hoped but on the way she gained something more; a better understanding of not only her thoughts but of those around her. “The truth is, being ugly isn’t the thrill you’d think, but it can be an opportunity for something better than I ever imagined.”(288)
Right up until the final climatic scenes of the book with a final confrontation of the protagonist, a blood- soaked Brandy Alexander lying on the floor, and a rifle- toting Evie, all of which are being engulfed in a mansion of flames, their psychologies help shape who they are. Though the protagonist was able to realize before her disfigurement that she was in fact “a product in a world of products”, she still continued to be spoon-fed the dictations of which she hated; through her chosen career she showed this. It was not until her accidental disfigurement did she allow herself to no longer be another conforming piece of the contemporary Americanized societal puzzle and allow herself to mindfully adapt an alternate way of thinking. “… And if you can find any way out of our culture, then that’s a trap, too. Just wanting to get out of the trap reinforces the trap.” (220) Regardless of its unhealthy nature, her way of thinking allowed to her grasp onto something new and something that was her own.
Excluding all the deviant incidents that her way of thinking begot, her or those around her with like thinking, finally showed her escape from the American cultural purgatory that she felt was afflicting her so greatly. Because of this, her ideas shone through all the cynicism and ultimately those ideas of cynicism remained, but instead of being a negation to her as a being, she was able to accept it and persevere, no longer being shrouded with the disdain that her beauty and her acceptance of commercialism had imposed on her.