I'm Nevets: Nerd, cinephile, TV-junkie, bookworm, gamer, and slacker extraordinaire.
Your big questions finally answered
Pulp Fiction may be one of the greatest modern films ever made, but that doesn't make it any less complex. While nowhere near as mind-boggling as such films as Eraser Head or The Seventh Seal, it does have quite a few questions and speculations circulating it that both new and old viewers alike would like to get to the bottom of. Below, I've attempted to answer every single one of them.
Want to know what's really in the briefcase? I've gotcha' covered. Curious as to why Vincent seemed to have such harsh feelings toward Butch? Well, that's here too. Also, I've gone ahead and put in a few theories about such things as the "divine intervention" and the characters "crap" luck as well.
Oh! And if there's anything you'd like to add or any other questions you'd like answered that I've somehow neglected to cover, simply drop me a line in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
NOTE: Looking for the answer to only one thing in particular? Just search through the table of contents below to quickly find your question, click it and jump right to its answer! No excess reading required.
Table of Contents
- What's in the briefcase?
- Was the divine intervention stuff real?
- What exactly does Marsellus Wallace look like?
- Do the characters in the film really have crap luck?
- Why doesn't Vince like Butch?
- Is Vincent Vega the brother of Vic Vega (Mr. Blonde) from Reservoir Dogs?
- Was the guy with the hand-cannon really Jerry Seinfeld?
- What does the title "Pulp Fiction" mean?
- Why didn't Vincent and Jules kill Marvin? Er, intentionally?
- What's up with the bandage on the back of Marsellus Wallace's neck?
- Why doesn't Hunny Bunny's line from the beginning of the film match what she said at the end?
- They sure do say the f-word a lot don't they?
- What's the difference between an Amos and Andy Shake and a Martin and Lewis?
- What's with the weird cab driver that Butch had?
- Was it just coincidence that Butch and Marsellus ran into each other in the street?
- Didn't the Buddy Holly waiter look familiar?
Tarantino XX: The Ultimate Quentin Tarantino Boxset
What's in the briefcase?
This is probably the most asked, re asked, and asked again question about Pulp Fiction. And there are endless theories out there on it. I’m not going to go through and list every last one of these theories, of course, but I have listed a few of the ideas (and the reasoning’s behind them) that appear to be the most popular.
A.) The case contains gold
What backs this up?
1.) The golden glow that shines from the case.
2.) Everyone’s instant recognition of what’s inside of the case — when you see gold, you know it.
B.) The case contains the diamonds stolen from Tarantino’s previous cult favorite, Reservoir Dogs
What backs this up?
1.) It’s not unusual for Tarantino to connect his films through characters, events, and other various references.
2.) This would also explain why everyone knows what’s in the briefcase as soon as they lay eyes on it.
3.) It would explain how light the case is to carry around; as oppose to gold, which would be quite a strain for the characters to lug all over the place.
C.) The case contains the evil soul of Marsellus Wallace
What backs this up?
1.) The band-aid on the back of Marsellus’s neck. Some believe that below this bandage could be a portal in which his soul escaped.
2.) The combination to the lock of the briefcase is “666″ — the mark of the devil.
The most favored theory out of all of these appears to be C, the demonic soul theory (this is also reported to be Tarantino’s own favorite fan-explanation).
THE REAL ANSWER?
The pragmatic truth behind the briefcase is that there is nothing inside it at all, only a golden light bulb. This was done because there was a need to have something of high importance inside of the case but it seemed nearly impossible to think of just the right thing for the job. So it was left ambiguous. Left up to the viewer. There literally is no right or wrong to this question because what’s in the case is irrelevant. It’s only a device used to further along the story; what Alfred Hitchcock so famously referred to as a McGuffin.
Was the divine intervention real?
If you watch the film closely you can see that all the divine intervention crap that Jules kept going on about wasn't nonsense at all.
When Jules and Vincent dodged the bullet at the beginning of “The Bonnie Situation”, Jules immediately saw it as a sign: A second chance to make his life a better one, without the crime and murder he was wrapped up in up to this point. It was, to him, as if God himself were speaking to him and warning him that he was going down a dangerous path. He comes to the realization that if he keeps up this kind of lifestyle then it would surely lead to his own demise. So, later on, while eating his muffin, he makes the choice to “get out of the life”.
Vincent, on the other hand, didn't buy into any of this. He’s far too pragmatic for such illogical ideas. He saw the bullets that barely missed Jules and himself as nothing more than good luck on their part and very bad luck on the Jerry Seinfeld looking guy who shot at them. Therefore, he was not motivated by this supposed sign from God and chose to keep on with his criminal life and continue with his sinful ways.
When you re-watch the film you'll notice this:
Once Butch goes against Marsellus’s wishes in “The Gold Watch” and doesn't go down in the fight when he’s supposed to, Marsellus sends his troops after him. He needs two of his men to stay and stakeout Butch’s apartment. He chooses Vince and Jules for the job but, unfortunately for him, Jules has just had this life changing epiphany and will no longer let himself be involved in such immoral activities. So Marsellus is forced, on short notice, to fill in for Jules’ at the job.
If Jules hadn't gone with his gut and taken “the path of the shepherd,” then he too may have died right along with his old partner; or, perhaps worse, ended up suffering Marsellus' fate. Ultimately, Jules' acknowledgement of the divine intervention is likely to have saved his life.
What exactly does Marsellus Wallace look like?
... Ahem. No comment.
Next questions, please.
Do the characters in the film really have crap luck?
If you notice in each of the stories of the film, a bathroom is incorporated into the scenes during many of the most pivotal moments. Here's some examples:
A.) “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife”
- We first see a bathroom come into play when we see Mia Wallace doing coke in the restroom at Jack Rabbit Slims. This is a foreshadow of how she would later snort heroin and overdose.
- Later, during this same story, Vincent contemplates a moral dilemma to himself while inside of a bathroom. Only to exit moments later and find that Mia has overdosed on his heroin.
B.) “The Gold Watch”
- Once Butch makes it back to his motel, after his fight, he goes to the bathroom to take a shower. While there, he has a conversation with his wife about leaving the country.
- After Butch makes it back to his apartment, he finds Vincent exiting from his bathroom and immediately shoots and kills him.
C.) “The Bonnie Situation”
- Just before Vincent and Jules are shot at by the man with the hand-cannon, we see that the — soon to be dead — shooter is hiding in a bathroom.
- When Vince and Jules make it to Jimmy’s house, they examine their terrible situation while in a bathroom.
- When Vincent is in the bathroom at the diner relieving himself and reading his pulp novel, he exits to find that Hunny Bunny and Pumpkin have held up the restaurant.
So, yes. Crappers in Pulp Fiction definitely do appear to be a foreshadow of bad things to come.
Why doesn't Vince like Butch?
As you can see in the bar scene, after Marsellus pays off Butch to throw the fight, Butch runs into Vincent and has a brief confrontational scene. Why?
(an excerpt from the scene in question)
BUTCH: “You lookin’ at somethin’, friend?”
VINCENT: “You ain’t my friend, Palooka.”
BUTCH: “What was that?”
VINCENT: “I think you heard me just fine, punchy.”
The reason that Vince refers to Butch as “Palooka” and “Punchy” is because he doesn’t like the fact that Butch is throwing a fight for money. Whether this is because he’s a fan of Butches or just has moral issues with cheating is unknown. Either way, it appears that his issues with Butch spawn from his disapproval of the decision to throw the fight.
Also, later on in the film, when Vincent tells Lance that someone has “Key’d” his car. This is quite possibly referring to Butch, who may have scratch up the car in the parking lot after their confrontation.
Is Vincent Vega the brother of Vic Vega (Mr. Blonde) from Reservoir Dogs?
Yes! Oddly enough.
As you've probably noticed, it’s not at all unusual for Quentin Tarantino to have various characters, events, places, names, and stories from his films be intertwined. According to Tarantino, this is precisely what’s going on with the Vic and Vincent Vega situation — they are indeed meant to be brothers.
In fact, at one point Quentin Tarantino had even planned on making a film about these two characters entitled The Vega Brothers. Unfortunately though, the plans for the film fell through over the years and it’s now very unlikely to ever be made. This is because the film would have to be a prequel to both Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs (for obvious reasons) and the actors are now well past the age of playing someone younger than they were almost 20 years ago.
Was the guy with the hand-cannon really Jerry Seinfeld?
Uhm, no. But he is commonly referred to as such. This is because of the actors resemblance to the well known comedian. In reality, the hand-cannon guys is none other than Alexis Arquette; brother of David, Patricia, and Rosanna Arquette. Or, as you The Wedding Singer fans may better know him -->
What does the title "Pulp Fiction" mean?
In the beginning of the film you see the definitions above. The second of which is what the title refers to.
Pulp magazines and novels are stories about crime, violence, lust and other gritty tales, and they often include quick, snappy dialog. In a sense, they're simply film-noir on paper and Pulp Fiction is Quentin Tarantino’s homage to them.
Why didn't Vincent and Jules kill Marvin? Er, intentionally?
When Jules and Vincent arrive at Bretts apartment and "take care" of everyone there, they spare Marvin because he was one of them. He was their “guy on the inside”. Remember at the beginning when Vince and Jules are getting their weapons from the trunk?
(an excerpt from this scene)
JULES: “We should have shotguns for this kinda deal.”
VINCENT: “How many are up there?”
JULES: “Three or four.”
VINCENT: “That’s counting our guy?”
Marvin is their guy. This is why he’s not shot (on purpose at least) and this is why, after shooting Brett and the others, Vincent says to Jules, “Do you know this guy?” and Jules responds, “Yeah,” and gives his name as Marvin.
What's up with the bandage on the back of Marsellus Wallace's neck?
The popular opinion on this is that there is a hole in the back of Marsellus’s neck in which his evil soul had escaped. It’s current location is supposedly in the glowing briefcase (unlocked by the code “666″) seen throughout the movie. But, since I debunked that idea earlier, you should already know it’s not what’s going on here.
The real reason for the Band-Aid on the back of Marsellus’s neck (and this has been confirmed) was that the actor, Ving Rhames, had an ugly scar on that particular part of his neck. Thinking that it would distract the viewers during the closeup scenes, the studio went ahead and slapped the bandage on there.
Why doesn't Hunny Bunny's line from the beginning of the film match what she said at the end?
Was it a mistake when Hunny Bunny’s line from the beginning, “Any of you fucking pricks move, I’m gonna execute every mother fucking last one of you!” didn’t match up with her line at the end?
Yes, it’s true that at the beginning of the film, when Pumpkin and Hunny Bunny begin to rob the diner, she creams “Any of you fucking pricks move, I’m gonna execute every mother fucking last one of you!” and it’s also true that when we loop back to that scene at the end of the film the line changes to “Any of you fucking pricks move, I’m gonna execute everyone of you mother fuckers!” But is it a mistake? Apparently not.
Tarantino has stated that this was purposely done to show the scene from two different perspectives. The first, that of Hunny Bunny and Pumpkins, and the second that of Jules.
They sure do say the f-word a lot don't they?
A total of 265 times actually.
What's the difference between an Amos and Andy Shake and a Martin and Lewis?
The Jack Rabbit Slims was a 1950s themed restaurant where many of the meals were named after, or otherwise connected to popular culture of that era. The Amos and Andy and Martin and Lewis milkshakes were thus named after real figures during that time. With Amos and Andy being a black comedy duo and Martin and Lewis being a white comedy duo, the milkshakes were referred to them in order to differentiate between a chocolate (the black duo) and a vanilla (the white duo) shake.
What's with the weird cab driver that Butch had?
The weird cab driver, Esmerelda, is played by Angela Jones. Tarantino once saw Jones in a short film called Curdled, where she played a woman who was fascinated by murders and who had the occupation of cleaning up after them. After seeing the film, Tarantino was so impressed by Angela Jones’ character and performance that he decided to cast her in the very similar role of Esmerelda in Pulp Fiction.
Was it just coincidence that Butch and Marsellus ran into each other in the street?
No, it’s not a coincidence.
Marsellus is already in Butch’s neighborhood at this point because he is performing a stakeout of Butch’s apartment with Vincent (who’s previous partner, Jules, had recently quit the criminal lifestyle).
Butch “runs into” Marsellus in the street because Marsellus was within walking distance of Butches apartment. It appears that he had recently left to pick up some food and was likely on his way back to Butch’s apartment when Butch pulled up beside of him.
Didn't the Buddy Holly waiter look familiar?
Yes. If you’re a Steve Buscemi fan he did.
Vincent and Mia’s waiter at Jack Rabbit Slims, who was dressed as Buddy Holly, was played by actor Steve Buscemi — the funny lookin’ guy from Fargo and star of Tarantino’s previous film, Reservoir Dogs.
Buscemi was originally set to play the role of Jimmie but since his schedule wouldn’t allow it, Tarantino took the role himself. Tarantino still wanted Buscemi to have a role in the movie though, so he cast Buscemi as a waiter during the Jack Rabbit Slims scene.
The irony in this is that in Tarantino’s previous film, Reservoir Dogs, Buscemi played a character that went on a long rant as to how he refused to tip inept waiters and waitresses. Karma, huh?
© 2014 The Gutter Monkey
vinod KATHAYAT from ghaziabad on August 04, 2018:
Is Pulp Fiction a Neo Noir, I don't know but this particular site show pulp fiction one of the best neo noir.
Robert Sacchi on February 02, 2017:
I remember watchin Pulp Fiction on a channel that puts trivia on the screen. There was a mention they got an ex-drug addict as an advisor so all the drug scenes would be authentic. It seems definitely possible they had Travolta use a dry voice for realism.
Lefty Obradovich on February 02, 2017:
I noticed that in the deleted 'Mia's Camera' scene, Travolta's voice seems dry. As an ex-junkie I'm aware that H makes your throat dry. Any info on whether Travolta did that on purpose as part of character preparation? The first time I saw the deleted scenes I was 'strung out' and picked right up on that.
LeaveNoEvidence on February 17, 2016:
@GutterMonkey. I found that handshake really intriguing. Thanks for the heads up on my theory.
But what I found more hilarious was when Mr Wallace's goons go to rough up Brett&Co in their apartment.And S. L Jackson asks Brett if Marsellus looks like a Bitch? Brett replies no. And S. L then asks Brett why then are they(Brett&Co) trying to Fuck Marsellus like a Bitch.?.... then cut to "Spider just caught a couple of flies" the pawn shop scene with B.Willis
there we see in living colour Marsellus Wallace getting Fucked like a Bitch by Zed... ahhh Tarantino is a god
And speaking of thinking outside the box, isn't that what Mia encourages Vince to do in the parking lot of Jack Rabbit Slims.
The Gutter Monkey (author) on February 15, 2016:
@ Robert Sacchi
Oooh; and so the well deepens.
Also, yes: naturally, he could. And, probably, we all are. But oh well.
Robert Sacchi on February 13, 2016:
To take that theory a step further. If the Samoan fellow sold Mia drugs that would be a reasonable motive for Marsellus to make him take a flying leap. Marsellus may prefer the foot massage rumor to letting it out his wife is a drug addict. Naturally Quentin Tarantino could say we're all nuts.
The Gutter Monkey (author) on February 13, 2016:
I've never heard that theory before, or even that parallel, but I gotta say, I like it! That's some mighty fine out of the box thinking on your part, LeaveNoEvidence. Sorry I have no evidence to confirm your idea, however, but I think it's a good one nevertheless.
Thanks for your comment!
LeaveNoEvidence on February 12, 2016:
What was the fat dude(forgot his name) thrown 3 stories of a building for? Rumour was because he gave Marsellus's wife a foot job. And when Vince takes Uma the wife out for dinner he confronts her about the foot job. And she blatantly denies the accusation and and offers instead that she doesn't know why Marsellus threw the fat dude down three stories. She does however admit to shaking the fat guys hand at her wedding. And if you notice soon after Mia almost O. D's on heroin. When Vince is dropping her off at her place. They both agree not to let Marsellus know about their "incident". And they shake hands. Could that be the second handshake.. Mias second O. D? And if Vince hadn't been iced by Burch. He would have suffered the same fate as the fat dude? All over a handshake?
Robert Sacchi on March 01, 2015:
Thank you, this was a fun read. Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies. In general I enjoy Tarantino movies.
MasterDripper on November 23, 2014:
great topics on some of the questions from this fantastic film...yet another QT masterpiece...cheers
Michael Kismet from Northern California on August 19, 2014:
I thought I liked Pulp Fiction, but you clearly beat me in that regard. I love nearly every Quentin Tarantino movie I've ever watched. I don't care what people say, I think he's cinematic genius. That actor in the bathroom did look a lot like Jerry Seinfeld, it's the hair I think, ha-ha.
Great hub, I learned quite a bit about one of my favorite movies. Thanks for the time invested in this hub, you clearly put a lot of time in it, and it shows. =)
Faisal Baig from islamabad on August 19, 2014:
i seen this movie , buhat hi alaa :)