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What's Pulp Fiction really about?

I’m a huge Tarantino fan, and Pulp Fiction is my favorite movie of all-time. And after watching it a ton, I’ve noticed a lot of things that I never really hear film critics talk about. Generally, when I read essays on Pulp Fiction, critics get caught up on all the movie references, and they also seem to struggle with analyzing the film as a single work, since the movie appears so disjointed with its multiple storylines. But I think I’ve recognized some larger themes that are relevant to all of the chapters, as well as the prologue and epilogue in the Hawthorne Grill. And after looking at how every major scene in the film fits in with these larger themes, I’ve found that that Pulp Fiction is as focused and tightly crafted a film as any I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen my fair share.

I’ve written an essay of my own that explores these themes, and uses them to uncover the meaning behind some of the more ambiguous scenes in the film (although I still have no idea what’s in the briefcase, unfortunately). I think the stuff I’ve come up with also reveals the significance of a lot of minor details, like the songs chosen for the soundtrack, and the TV shows that the characters watch.

As for what those themes are, they revolve around the concepts of love and hate, as well as the place these concepts hold within the alternate universe that the film takes place in. I’ve accumulated a massive amount of evidence to support this assertion, and I hope that you get a chance to look at what I have to say. Here’s the link to the Pulp Fiction essay I posted on my personal website:

To sum up my essay, every storyline in Pulp Fiction involves love (Mia, Fabienne, Bonnie, and Honey Bunny are all love interests), and every storyline involves violent people (with violence being an act of hatred). Good things invariably happen to characters who embrace love and shun violence, while bad things invariably happen to people who reject love and continue to harm others. Moreoever, Ezekiel 25:17 actually says that God will reward good people, and punish the wicked. Now, I’m not a religious person myself, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist in the world of the film. Here’s an excerpt from my essay that explains why:

After all, whether or not you believe God exists, you must acknowledge that every work of art has at least one Creator. Our universe may have come about through natural means; but there can be no paintings without painters, no books without authors, and most important of all to our discussion on Pulp Fiction, no films without filmmakers. Who knows if there is a God, but everyone knows there is a Tarantino.

If the summary of my essay interests you, just know that my actual essay proves all of it! There’s a lot of good stuff in there, and hopefully you’ll have time to read it. Let me know what you think of these ideas!

Cool (wo)man, and I actually read the whole thing! I agree with alot of what is there too. I’ve always felt that all of QT’s films are essentially love stories. I’ve always wondered what might have happened if Vincent and Mia hooked up. Surely Marsellus would have been on them like white on rice, but he ends up dying for that loyalty (fear) later anyway. I would like to have seen that. Butch and Fabian get to ride into the sunset, Jules takes a shot at redemption, nothing would make me happier than to see Vincent take that chance too, even if it does mean taking his bosses woman.

Thanks a lot for reading, man. Haha, and yeah, I’m a guy. I know it’s tough to tell since my name’s extremely uncommon (and that’s an understatement).

[quote=“Ordell Rodriguez”]I’ve always wondered what might have happened if Vincent and Mia hooked up. Surely Marsellus would have been on them like white on rice, but he ends up dying for that loyalty (fear) later anyway.[/quote]

And that’s the important part. When we’re watching the first chapter, the idea of him making a move on Mia sounds scary as hell because of what Marsellus might do. But by the end of the film, we know that running away with Mia would’ve been the safer thing to do. That’s a big part of why I like Pulp Fiction. It rewards repeat viewings, because early scenes take on new meaning once we know what happens later on. The first time I saw the movie, I was thinking, “Let her go, you’re crazy! Don’t mess with your boss!” But now I think, “Vincent, you idiot, catch up!” just because he’s going to get killed by Butch anyways.

[quote=“Ordell Rodriguez”]Butch and Fabian get to ride into the sunset, Jules takes a shot at redemption, nothing would make me happier than to see Vincent take that chance too, even if it does mean taking his bosses woman.[/quote]

Yeah, that’s exactly it. It’s been said that Pulp Fiction is made up of stories of redemption; and as I tried to point out in my essay, redemption in the film has to be gained through love. All Jules knew was that he and Vincent had to leave the crime world; but for Vincent, it was just as important for him to get with Mia as it was to quit crime.

And I think what really surprised me after analyzing the film, is how love affects the minor characters. Jimmie makes a big fuss about how Jules and Vincent are going to get him divorced from his wife, who he explicitly states his love for. And then what happens to him? He ends up receiving a wad of cash from Mr. Wolf. A similar thing happens with Pumpkin. And also, Tarantino goes out of his way to include Mr. Wolf’s girlfriend in the film, even though she brings absolutely nothing to the table, except that she happens to further the theme of love (and help my argument ;D ). That seems so convenient that it makes me wonder if it’s more than a coincidence.

While I agree that QT’s work is about love I don’t agree that one can find it in the plotlines of his movies. His movies are about love for cinema. Reality has really nothing to do with it. Maybe some is taken from his personal experience, most notable True Romance, it’s not his main interest or point or what his movies are about. Pulp Fiction is cut up, but could’ve been a very straightforward movie if you put the chapters in the right order. This choice has to do with style, love for cinema and feeling for what works. It is not a plot-development tool.

I think the starting point of the director is the way to go when analysing his movies. In QT’s case that is the world that cinema creates. It’s not about being a mirror for reality or in any way making a comment on real life. Like the great Oscar Wilde said: Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life

You could make points about the characters chatting away and making some sort of logic out of it, but it is kind of futile. It’s like searching for a common sense and reality in a David Lynch movie, sure you can work out some things, but they would be beside the point and intention and what they are “really about”. Whatever that may be. I don’t find it interesting to search for what something is about. Only in what it creates. Like making poetry about an existing sensation or feeling it is a pointless exercise.

Good art creates. It doesn’t imitate.

One doesn’t have to look to hard to see that all of his films are love stories. Not always romantic love either. Whether it’s Mr. White and Mr. Orange or Beatrix and Bill, it’s love.

And they all are love letters to cinema.

Next to love there are also numerous other things that are used, but these themes don’t really explain what the essence of a QT-movie is. Love isn’t examined in his movies. Its just a much used theme and for QT a tool, I think. Do you ever watch a QT-movie because of the great love story he creates?

To me it’s like seriously looking at a David Lynch movie and trying to explain the plot by treating them as events that are logical real life events. A tat besides the point.

Hello everybody! It’s been a while. Nice to see you again Seth_Gecko!

To me pulp fiction is about pure entertainment, violence, interesting characters colliding with each other and a big change in choice and lifestyle for one character.

Wow, it’s been so so long since you last wrote here. How are you ?

How I am? That’s a pretty long story. Wait I’ll post later a bit what’s happend to me etc.

I moved to Amsterdam in 2007 and went to the national film school for a course in camera lighting. Since 2008 I’ve worked in the dutch film and commercial industrie as a freelance lighting assistent. Unfortunately I lost the positive motivation I had for working in the movie industry (long story) It was a great time working as a freelancer and always having different movies, commercials, documentaries, locations and sets to work on. But now Im refocussing my career outside the film industrie. It’s most problaly going to be in in the finance sector. The fun thing is that when I worked in the film industrie I never had the time or the same amount of fun in watching movies etc. Now that Im out of the business I am watching more movies and visiting this site again!

Really, you got sick of the business ? I used to work more on shootings too before. I kinda had to stop and focus on bringing some money at home, to pay the rent and the food, ahaha. But I kinda miss shootings. I directed a short this year but it’s too long to get wrapped because of everybody’s schedule. PLus I have to work hard at the uni since I apply for a thesis next year.

I do understand though that when you’re all into the business, you watch less and less movies actually. Me and my friends still wathc a lot but I’ve met people from the business who rarely go the theater (no time) or rarely see old movies (no time, no knowledge).

But how come you changed your mind so much ? From films to finance ? Did you have bad experiences in the business that made you change your mind ?

hehe Cyber-Lili in order to prevent off-topic chat we could best personal message each other about our conversation!

To me it is about great entertainment pure and simply.

Well the meaning certainly depends on who you are. What struck me first was the secondary reality more real than the first one - i mean, it’s already in the title - it’s fiction (or rather the obsession with fiction, art, everything imagined, invented, created etc. before - that is why it is a “secondary” reality as a reflection of the “real” one), but this fiction is so more-than-life, it actually determines the way you see life, the "real (first) reality, and go on creating (re-shaping) things. So it’s mirror in the mirror - and this thing, this obsession with art (or pulp) is shining through all the “entertainment”. So it depends on whether you see the movie as such (story, entertainment, etc.) or the movie from inside - from the point of view of QT, the Creator, obsessed with great art, pulp, whatever, and setting up a new mosaic of all these elements.

Eward, you make a good argument. However, I’m leaning more towards Seth_Gecko’s point. Even though it’s good argument, it feels a little bit that it is still missing the point. Whatever the point is (I couldn’t figure that out, yet).

Yeah, I’m with longbow. I don’t really care about the intricacies of the plot line and what was going on n QT’s head at any particular point in the film. Maybe I’m shallow, but all I wan’t out of a film is lots of good entertainment.