Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pulp Fiction...a morality play??

UPDATE - I deleted an ignorant, unintelligent, antisemitic "comment." Don't do it again, or you are banned.

People’s eyebrows generally rocket upward when I state, without a hint of uncertainty or compunction, that Pulp Fiction is a ver-r-r-r-r-ry Catholic film. My interlocutors invariably disagree, citing the number of characters who are scattered merrily along the darker end of the lowlife spectrum.

To which I say, that relative to Christ, we are ALL pretty much situated along the darker end of the lowlife spectrum, even the most infrequent of venial sinners.

The examples are multiple (I'll revise and extend my remarks as time allows), and you may never see this film the same way again.

Here are a few such examples:

1- The stories contained by the film are out of sequence. This is because God is “outside time.”

2- When Vince and Jules (who has abused Scripture his whole “career”) are shot at, from nearly point-blank range, and emerge unscathed, Jules sees a miracle and changes his ways. He becomes transformed by the Divine action he recognizes. "...God stopped the bullets, or He changed Coke to Pepsi, He found my f***ing car keys. You don't judge s*** like this based on merit. Now, whether or not what we experienced was an according-to-Hoyle miracle is insignificant. What IS significant is that I felt the touch of God." In the Letter to the Hebrews, we read that Abraham is saved “through faith". Jules has a conversion and is spared. Vince, does not and is killed shortly after. (More on these facets to follow.)

3- Butch's story pivots around his father's watch. It symbolizes immortality (that whole “being outside of time” thing). It “served” honorably in a military context; it's his “birthright” handed down by ancestors who fought and died. However, Butch has squandered that potential, he hasn't fought for a noble cause, he has just fought as a sport. He doesn’t even feel too much remorse for the other boxer who dies in the match.

Butch goes back to retrieve the watch his father willed him (i.e., by retrieving the watch, he is doing his father’s will) where he encounters Vince, at this point without Jules who has experienced a conversion which Vince explicitly denies, and kills him with the weapon marked for Butch’s death. (The instrument of death becomes, after a chain of events, the catalyst for his forgiveness of Marcellus and the latter’s salvation.)

Butch’s story features a descent into Hell - the basement of the pawn shop used as an S&M rape dungeon. There he's finally presented with a clear decision. He COULD leave Marcellus Wallace (who until moments before tried to have him killed) to the S&M rapists or he could descend into Hell, go back and save him even if he doesn’t deserve being saved.

Butch decides the way of honor, embracing the risks of his military forebears and therefore honoring them. (Ancestors often symbolize God.) To underscore the point, after sifting through more prosaic choices, Butch decides on the weapon that most often is associated with honor, the samurai sword. Having descended into Hell, behaved nobly at great personal risk, he rescues Marcellus thus forgiving him. As a result of Butch’s forgiveness, he gets to leave his past life to a new one on a motorcycle named "Grace."

4- The attaché case that Jules and Vincent went to retrieve? It carries the soul of Marcellus Wallace. In ancient mythology, sometimes monsters would kidnap a soul through the back of the neck; this would explain the Band Aid on Marcellus' neck. What ELSE could Ringo possibly recognize to such an extent as to be rendered stunned in the middle of a heist? Oh, and the combination of the locks? 666.

5- The film opens with Ringo and Honey Bunny holding up a diner, and it ends with Jules choosing to let them live. Jules explicitly says that a) as a result what he’s experienced on this day, he gets to buy Ringo’s life, and b) that he is trying “real hard” to be the shepherd, like we are called upon to bring Christ to others.

Jules’ example teaches us that God’s mercy can be given even to a cold-blooded killer, and that mercy is in no way damaged or “tainted” if it’s manifested to one sinner from another, even the worst and most hardened of sinners. However, Jules recognizes that he has led a violently sinful past, and he recognizes that he, like Cain, must “walk the earth.”

6- In the “Mr. Wolf” scene, we see that as a consequence of his experience, Jules’ hands leave the towel in the bathroom spotlessly white, but Vince’s hands leave his towel red and bloodied. Jules has embraced (even if he hasn’t yet verbalized it) repentance and conversion, while Vince has refused it. The reason there’s even a “Mr. Wolf” scene in the first place is that Vince, somehow accidentally shoots Marvin in the head. Vince, dead in sin and refusing forgiveness, cannot but bring death even when he doesn’t intend to do so. Meanwhile, as we will see in the diner scene, Jules’ is now willfully bringing life to where once he sowed death.

7- We see that Mia is brought back from the dead by Vince acting upon the instructions of Lance (whose name recalls the piercing of Christ’s side, and whose wife is obviously a fan of body piercings) who has a curiously Jesus-like appearance – remember he’s not A Savior, he is, in this one scene, a Savior TYPE. Vince has been given a second chance to see the error of his ways and change, but again he refuses it.

So, um, WHY “litter” the story with pretty much the worst examples of humanity (and their not-quite Ivory Soap Pure behavior/language)? Drug dealers, murderers, organized crime? Because we have to realize that mercy extends to even the lowest of the low, and the low don’t talk like Leave it to Beaver or Shakespeare.

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