Pulp Fiction: The Light in the Dark

Emily Walker
May 4, 2016 · 7 min read

There are a few major purposes for bandaids. One is to cover a scratch or wound to prevent it from becoming infected. Another could be to stop a cut from bleeding or oozing. I have even used to them to cover my earrings during a soccer game when I could not take them out yet. However, they can also be used to cover a scar. Viewers have a theory that gang boss, Marsellus Wallace, used a bandaid for this reason. Marsellus is first shown in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction by a shot viewing only the back of his head. All that we see is his large black, bald head with a bandaid on the back of it. The bandaid is covering the scar where many believe that his soul was removed from his body by the devil.

Pulp Fiction is full of violence, vulgarity, and immoralities, as are most Quentin Tarantino films. However, Pulp Fiction is also filled with mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Tarantino uses Biblical references that exhibit the power of forgiveness and God’s compassion. Many tough characters experience a change in heart during the film and shed mercy on foes, just like God forgives sinners. “The whole movie isn’t about redemption, but redemption does keep working itself into the movie,” says Tarantino during an American Film Institute interview.

Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield are gangsters who work for Marsellus. One of their duties was to retrieve a briefcase belonging to him, and they went through near death experiences to maintain possession of it. The briefcase is eventually returned to Marsellus, but the film never reveals its content. Whenever it is opened, it reflects an orange light on the person’s face who is looking into it. Ringo was wonderstruck and said “it’s beautiful,” and when his wife demanded to be told what it was, he could not even reply he was in such awe. Brett and some of his friends were killed by Jules and Vincent because they took the briefcase. There are not any context clues that describe what is in the briefcase besides the combination to open it, 666, and Marsellus’s bandaid. The viewer can infer that Marsellus’s soul is what is inside of the suitcase because he sold it to the devil and now he is trying to get it back which is why Vincent and Jules are protecting it with their lives. A person’s soul is the most beautiful thing about them which is why Ringo is so amazed by looking at it. Jules even says to him “I can’t give you this case, it doesn’t belong to me.” However, these are just theories. The film does not ever confirm what is in it. Co-writer Roger Avery responds to the theories in Roger Ebert’s Questions for the Movie Answer Man by saying,

“Originally the briefcase contained diamonds. But that just seemed too boring and predictable. So it was decided that the contents of the briefcase were never to be seen. This way each audience member would fill in the blank with their own ultimate contents. All you were supposed to know was that it was “so beautiful.” No prop master can come up with something better than each individual’s imagination. At least that was the original idea. Then somebody had the bright idea (which I think was a mistake) of putting an orange lightbulb in there. Suddenly what could have been anything became anything supernatural. Didn’t need to push the effect. People would have debated it for years anyway, and it would have been much more subtle. I can’t believe I’m actually talking about being subtle.”

Jules experiences what he calls “divine intervention” when he and Vincent are miraculously untouched by one of Brett’s friends who fires away at them. Vincent credits luck, but Jules believes that it was God who saved them. God saved them from bullets that one of the devil’s helpers (hoarder of Marsellus’s soul) tried to kill them with. This is a major turning point in Jules’s outlook on life, and it is a parallel to a new believer’s experience when they believe there is a greater being. Jules then goes on to show his transformation when addressing Ringo about his former Ezekiel 25:17 speech. Nowhere in the Bible is this exact passage found, but the ending is relatively similar. Jules quotes Tarantino’s version of it:

“Ezekiel 25:17. The path of a righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”

Jules uses this passage to scold “cold blooded shit” to someone before he kills them, but he admits that he has never really stopped to think what it is actually about. He describes how he had always thought that it was justification for what he was about to do: shoot someone for wronging him or someone else. He shows mercy to Ringo when he explains that normally he would just kill him, but he’s in a transition period. This action is a Biblical allusion because once believers accept Christ as their savior, God no longer sees their sin. He forgives believers just as Jules forgives Ringo. Jules explains different descriptions of what that passage might actually mean. He declares that the truth is that Ringo is the weak and he is tyranny of evil men, but he says, “I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.” Like a new believer, Jules is admitting that he is sinful, but he is trying to repent and turn from his life of sin. He also gives Ringo $1500 from his own wallet and the customers’ wallets because he claims that he is “buying Ringo’s life.” Ringo and Honeybun walk away from the scene unharmed and with undeserved money. Like in the book of Matthew, Jules turns the other cheek instead of taking an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Later Vincent is killed because he did not turn from his sin and believe that God saved them, so it is representative that Jules has eternal life, at least during the movie.

During the scene that the back of Marsellus’s head is shown, he is instructing Butch to purposely throw a fight. Butch agrees and in turn receives a large amount of cash. However, Butch does the opposite of what Marsellus instructed and actually kills his opponent. He tries to flee the country, but he runs into Marsellus while driving (literally). Marsellus, having been betrayed, tried to kill Butch. Both severely wounded, Butch and Marsellus end up in a basement of a pawn shop with two rapists. Butch escapes and begins to leave but is convicted. He then returns to the basement with a sword to save Marsellus. Even after Marsellus tried to kill him, Butch is overcome with a feeling that he must save him because it is the right thing to do and he shows grace. This is the same type of compassion that God shows on his people. When Marsellus is set free, he forgives Butch for betraying him when he did not throw the fight, and in return, he asks him not to tell anyone. This scene is filled with evil, but it allows the characters to show compassion and grace to one another even when they were enemies.

Many characters in Pulp Fiction are unfair and demonstrate betrayal, but they also show compassion and forgiveness. Even in the darkest of scenes, there is light shown through mercy. The compassion shown in the film would not be as near as important or noticeable if it were not for all of the brutality. The film contains many devilish references and darkness which allows the light to shine brighter.

Works Cited

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