After watching Psycho, a major focal point was the protagonist being killed off halfway throughout the film and the role of main character being floated around for the rest of the film. What if a film switched its main characters every 30 minutes? What if the other characters took on new roles as secondaries? Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction does just that by way of shorter, contained stories that share a world.
The film is split into 7 distinct sections that all have a contained plot and resolution, but all have some common characters that show up in another area of the film. The world in this film largely centers around the gangster Marsellus Wallace and his associates. While he is not necessarily the main character of any of the stories, his involvement is often a driving factor in the plot and the connecting tissue between characters.
This structure is especially interesting because the chronology of the film is uncentered; characters seemingly die and come back to life, some events clearly take place before others, etc. This is operational because the stories are so separsted from one another. Let’s follow the stories of Butch Coolidge and Vincent Vega and see how they relate throughout the film.
The “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife” section of the film begins with a monologue of sorts from Marsellus Wallace, directed at Butch Coolidge. After taking money from Wallace and sharing sneers at the bar with Vega, Butch is never to be seen in again within the confines of this story.
From here, Vincent Vega is the main character of the story. However, in the next section (titled “The Gold Watch”), the torch of protagonist is passed from Vega to Coolidge, and the story follows him on his journey to redeem his watch. In some ways, Vega can be seen as a minor protagonist in this section because he is against our new protagonist. He is unsuspectingly killed by Butch via rapid gunfire.
The movie moves to its next section, titled “The Bonnie Situation”, which stars none other than the recently deceased Vincent Vega. While it quickly becomes apparent that this story takes place directly after Jules’ and Vincent’s first outing, it is jarring to see the protagonists of the film switch so frequently in such a short period of time.
The primary aspect of the film that holds it all together is the world of colorful characters that Tarantino has crafted, of which all the characters have their own interesting story to tell.