Monday, February 1, 2010

Pulp Fiction analysis - part 16: Switching of control among the characters


The diner standoff: Jules points his gun at Ringo (foreground), while Vincent and Yolando (standing on a table) point their guns at each other.

In part 2 of the analysis, we talked about the 'situational switching' going on in the movie - certain 'roles' and their 'opposites' are played out. An example we looked at was that in one scene, a character pays someone for their help, and in another scene, a corresponding character accepts pay to help someone. Now we will look at one specific context in which much of the switching in the movie occurs, that of being in control: A given character in the movie may be in control in one situation, but find himself under control in a different one.

The most obvious example of this 'switching of control' is the sequence of events that takes place in the diner at the movie's ending, i.e., the armed holdup of the diner by Ringo and Yolanda ('Pumpkin' and 'Honey Bunny', respectively). At the beginning of the holdup, the pair take control of all the employees and customers at gunpoint. However, once we're fairly well along into the robbery, soon after Ringo begins speaking to Jules, Jules grabs Ringo's gun, pulls out his own, and takes control of Ringo. Immediately after this, Yolanda re-asserts at least partial control for her and Ringo - if Jules shoots Ringo, Yolanda will shoot Jules. Then, control switches back toward Jules again, when Vincent returns from the diner's men's room and, upon seeing what is happening, points his gun at Yolanda. Eventually, the whole standoff ends in a neutral outcome, in the sense that no one is killed or wounded.

Another instance of control switching in the film occurs during the scene in Jimmie Dimmick's house. Jules and Vincent, who have been in control in most or all of the situations they have been in up to this point, now find themselves subject to Jimmie's good will. Note that Jimmie effectively forces Jules to acknowledge that he did not see a sign outside his house saying "dead nigger storage." Then, when The Wolf shows up, we notice that Jimmie becomes somewhat obsequious toward him - control now belongs to a different character, with Jimmie, Jules, and Vincent all under the control of The Wolf.

The scene in Jimmie's house.


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