Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pulp Fiction analysis - part 9: Jules is a traitor to mankind


Above left and right: Jules 'delivers his gospel' while in Brett's apartment.

In English, the name 'Jules' is related to 'Jude'. We know Jules is something of a religious figure, at least insofar as he is 'converted' by the experience in Brett's apartment; could there be some religious significance to his name itself? Hebrew does not differentiate between the names 'Jude', 'Judah', and 'Judas', so we could say that the names 'Jules' and 'Judas' are related. But, Judas was the name of one of Jesus' apostles; could there be any similarities between the men Jules and Judas?

As it turns out, one of Judas' functions was to carry the apostles' money-bag. And, we know Jules is carrying Marsellus Wallace's 'dirty laundry', i.e., his money, so we have a similarity between the two men, Jules and Judas. The next question to ask, is whether Jules is in some sense a traitor, as was Judas (in the bible, Judas was a traitor to Jesus). In the scene that takes place in Marsellus's bar, we are never actually shown Jules handing the briefcase (which he has recovered from Brett and his friends) to Marsellus. Then in the 'final' scene in the diner, which is, in reality, earlier in the movie timeline than the scene in Marsellus's bar, we are again shown Jules with the briefcase in his possession. The implication here (via the movie being shown as it is, i.e., with the diner scene appearing to take place after the bar scene), is that as far as the Pulp Fiction audience knows, the briefcase is never returned to Marsellus. So in this sense, Jules is a traitor to Marsellus.

Above left: Jules sits at Marsellus's bar holding the black briefcase, the contents of which belong to Marsellus. Above right: At the very end of the movie, in the diner, Jules still has the briefcase in his possession (click image to enlarge). Chronologically, this scene takes place before the bar scene, but nevertheless, what's being suggested is that Jules never hands the case over to Marsellus.

Considering Marsellus to be a Satan figure (the red glow in his place of business, shown at left, represents the fires of Hell), it's logical to next ask if there is some scenario in which Satan would be (or would would want to be) 'paid'. There is, in fact, something from Christian doctrine called the ransom view of the atonement. This theory claimed that Adam and Eve sold humanity over to the Devil at the time of the Fall, and that justice required that God pay the Devil a ransom to free us from the Devil's clutches.[a]

Taking the foregoing into consideration, we conclude that the movie-makers' intention is that the Pulp Fiction audience, give the following interpretation to Jules not returning the case to Marsellus: By virtue of the fact that he doesn't pay the Devil, Jules is a traitor to mankind in that he fails to save us. And, the fact that the audience's recognition of this depends, in part, on the movie being shown out of sequence, indicates that one of Tarantino's intentions in 'skewing' time in his film (i.e., showing certain events out of chronological order), is to send the audience metaphorical 'messages', that is, to lead us to make certain interpretations of various events in the movie.

Vincent Vega dials the combination to unlock the black briefcase.

a. Wikipedia, 'Ransom theory of atonement'. Web, n.d. URL =


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