Middle-Class Masculinity in Crisis: From Jekyll and Hyde to Fight Club

Both Robert Louis Stephenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club emerged at moments in history in which masculinity—specifically white, middle-class masculinity—was perceived to be in crisis. Jekyll and Hyde was written in 1886, at a time in which the professional men of the emerging middle class chafed under a perceived lack of agency as they were corralled into domesticity and inaction by shifting economic models. Fight Club was written in 1996, amid a growing body of media decrying the way corporate culture disenfranchised and de-individualized middle-class men, who became out-of-touch with their masculine power. In both novels, the middle-class main character feels stifled by the class and gender roles he is expected to play within society. Both men find an escape through alter-egos who represent the lower, working class, and thus are free to enact a primitive, violent masculinity and rebel against middle-class repression; this transgression of the norms of masculinity contains elements of class warfare, which functions as a commentary on the intersection of masculinity and class in these novels.

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