A Seriously Long Interpretation of Rant *SPOILERS*
Hi, I just finished reading Rant, my first Palahniuk book. I'm from the Philippines. I'm so confused but fascinated with the story that I have to talk about it somewhere. I know most of the points I'm going to make have been brought up here and lots of people have great explanations and ideas about what really happened in this bizarre book, but I just want to give it a try. For those of you who still want to discuss the book, maybe you can get something from my views.
WARNING: This one's a seriously long theory.
Browsing the forum, I found chubbz' post to be of most help:
Now here's my take:
First, the most important point to remember is that time can be splintered, like the novel said. Every time someone manages to go back in time, time is splintered into infinite number of parts.
For example, my present timeline says that I am typing on a keyboard. If I go back in time an hour before I begin typing, I instantly alter the past. One past could be me breaking a finger, so I can't type. Another could be me sleeping on my keyboard. And another one could be me not typing a keyboard at all. There's an infinite number of possibilities or timelines when time gets splintered.
Second, each time a new past is made because of someone's time travel, a new present is made, and a new future.
Third, Rant's story -- the story we're following -- is Rant's timeline. This timeline was a splinter of an original timeline involving Green Taylor Simms. However, the story doesn't follow that timeline. The story doesn't also follow Chet's (Rant's father's) timeline. What we're reading in the book is simply Rant's timeline: Rant's past and present.
Now, taking from chubbz' post, let's anchor the story on the idea that Green Taylor Simms IS Charles Casey -- not Rant's Dad whom we shall call "Chet Casey" -- but the one who crashed into Echo's parents and disappeared. Charles Casey is Green Taylor Simms. I'll discuss later why he changed his name.
Remember: While we're discussing Charles Casey's history, we're discussing it from the viewpoint of the book, which is from the timeline of Rant Casey. We pieced it together based on the accounts of Rant's friends and other people in the story.
All of Green Taylor Simm's or Charles Casey's story has to start somewhere, a normal timeline where he hasn't yet gone back in time to alter history.
So at first, Charles Casey was born in Middleton. He had a father, a normal one, a different unnamed father who was not Green Taylor Simms. Charles was an ordinary boy. He didn't have any superpowers. He wasn't special.
Charles Casey went to the city where the I-SEE-U act was already in effect. He became one of the officers of the government who were testing traffic patterns by crashing cars.
By this time, "time travel" was already being done by test crashers of the government, colleagues of Echo's mother. However, no one outside it still knew it can be done. Echo's parents knew how it was done and tried to crash into a car to travel back in time to a place "where the air was clean and we'd have empty land all around us." However, instead of them traveling back in time, they crashed into Charles Casey, who was the one who accidentally traveled back in time. At this point, time was splintered.
Charles, naked, lost in the past, had nowhere else to go but back to his old Middleton home. He found his house was different because it still hadn't dawned on him that he's in the past.
When Hattie, her great-grandmother, met Charles, she liked him. She wanted to have sex right away. Now remember somewhere in the book, someone (I think it was Neddy) who explained that there's a possibility you can have sex with your own mother, or your own grandmother in the past especially if she's a babe. Well, Charles did like Hattie and Hattie did like Charles, so they had sex.
When Charles reached orgasm, he felt he grew unusually stronger. This is one of the crucial parts of the story. From this point, Charles starts to build the theory that by seeding his ancestors, he himself becomes stronger, a superhuman, with increased senses.
From then on, Charles goes back to Middleton every 13 years to rape her ancestors -- Esther and Irene. Every time he raped one ancestor, he grew stronger. We don't know what other things Charles did during this time but we can assume he amassed knowledge and wealth. Until he was down to Irene.
When he raped Irene, his "real" father from the original timeline of his life disappears. Charles was now the strongest he's been, but he's still not immortal because he hasn't killed his mother yet.
Chet (Rant's father) was born the proof that Charles Casey's experiment worked -- that seeding your own ancestors made you stronger in the future, present and past. However, although Chet was somehow connected physically with Charles Casey (such that when Charles's powers grew, so did Chet's, so his sense of smell is strong), Chet now lived in a DIFFERENT past. It was the past splintered by Charles Casey traveling back in time.
Chet went to the city, met Shot, Echo and Neddy, did everything up to talking with Charles Casey (Green Taylor Simms) and then crashing his car while burning. Why did Chet do this? ANSWER: He wanted to save his mother from being attacked by the lunatic that was Charles Casey. Chet didn't care about power and all that shit. Chet simply loved his mother.
What else is his reason to stop Charles Casey?
Chet despised reality. Reality is a disease. Reality is a second hand experience. Chet couldn't care less if he hadn't been born. Chet had already lived life so full that it's ok for him to not exist. So instead of killing her, as he was instructed, Chet tried to save her.
He failed. He arrived about a minute too late.
Instead, Chet opted to just marry Irene to guard her just in case Charles Casey (Green Taylor Simms) travels back to kill her.
Now, the moment Chet traveled back in time to save his mother from Charles Casey, time was splintered again.
So Chet and Irene's son, Rant (the HERO, the MAIN CHARACTER) is both Chet and Charles Casey (Green Taylor Simms), but at the same time, Rant is not them since he came from a different splintered past. All three are one and the same and all three are different people at the same time because they are all offshoots of different splintered pasts.
Now Rant, like Charles Casey and Chet, had superpowers (increased sense of smell and taste, etc). He lived basically the same life as Chet's, but probably just varying in degrees. He met Shot, Echo, and Neddy and we followed his life through the stories of his friends and other people.
However, since Rant is an offshoot of a different splintered past, it also follows that he has a different future. This is why Chet Casey, his father, told him that when the time comes, he should hurry back and save his mother -- something that he failed to do. This means that Chet realized that, unlike him, Rant has a chance of saving his mother because he has a different future.
Rant realizes the same things his father did: killing his mother was not worth it. He loved his mother. Reality is a disease. It's ok to not exist.
So Rant crashes his burning car to travel back in time to save Irene. This is the car crash we've read. This is the car crash we followed in the story.
And Rant's story ends with that car crash.
What happened to Rant? Was he able to save his mother or not?
The answer is we don't really know.
The story doesn't go there. If Rant was able to do something in his future that Chet, his father, wasn't able to do -- we won't really know (except if there's a sequel). The story ends with an open question: did Rant succeed or fail?
Still, after Rant disappears, as readers, we continue to follow his timeline, what people did and said after he disappeared. We now turn to Green Taylor Simms (Charles Casey). Green realizes that if Rant succeeds in altering history, he'll somehow be affected physically even though they are offshoots of different splintered timelines. Just as seeding his ancestor made Green and Rant (and Chet) stronger, Rant stopping his mother's rape or even killing Green, would necessarily have some effect on Green's physicality or existence. Maybe he'll die. Maybe he'll cease to exist. Either way, Green also has to counter Rant. So Green, put some gasoline on his car, crashed and also traveled back in time.
Like Rant, we never know if Green succeeds or fails.
Charles Casey may have changed his name to Green Taylor Simms because at one point, having lived as long as he did, he would necessarily bump into Chet or Rant, and he didn't want to be confused with either of the two.
The proof that Green's and Chet's and Rant's pasts are all slightly different is the fact that Chet didn't recognize Rant's attempt at fooling him with the inks used to color Irene's eggs. Chet spent a lot of money testing himself for diseases because Rant would put ink on his underwear. This means that Chet had a different childhood. Had they been living the same timeline, Chet would have known Rant was just pulling pranks -- but he didn't know. Therefore, Rant's history was unique although similar to Chet's and Green's.
I've been thinking about this and I think Chuck wanted to present the novel as a real piece of history that had turned into fiction because the events that transpired cannot be proven anymore. Why? Because certain characters in the book succeeded in traveling back in time, eliminating the timeline where boosted peak technology exists and I SEE U act is enforced.
Shot Dunyan succeeded to travel back in time. He altered history such that boosted peak is impossible. Neddy Nelson traveled back ensuring I SEE U act is impossible. Echo traveled back in time to ensure her mother's wish that people lived in a place "where the air was clean and we'd have empty land all around us."
Also, Echo traveled back in time to prevent the accident that disfigured her from ever happening.
Thus, the book is telling us: OUR history, our reality, is a product of the successful attempts of Shot, Neddy, and Echo's attempts at altering history. The book presents itself as real.
We tend to forget that the book is a collection of statements by people. Who collected these statements?
My hunch: Echo.
Echo doesn't appear on the contributors section. She doesn't appear there because aside from altering history, she managed to be an immortal. How she did that, we won't know because that's not part of the book (which again, follows Rant's timeline only). However, if my guess is right and Palahniuk wants to present the book as a real piece of history, then it follows that someone must have preserved all those testimonies of the people who existed in Rant's timeline. Someone must have collected all those testimonies. That someone is Echo. She became a historian, someone above time, and she presented the story to us so we could read it.
According to the government, she's dead, but she's already above time like Waxman (a suspicious character who seems to have more significance than what's suggested).
Who's the girl who walked out of the car crash? That's an immortal. She could be any girl. Someone who attained immortality through time travel. Actually, we won't ever know the answer, but she could be Tina Something or even Echo.
So my final thesis is that, "Rant," the book, was the work of Echo Lawrence about her former boyfriend, Rant Casey, and about a dismantled splinter of time we'll never see because Echo and her friends had already altered history.