Saturday, June 16, 2012

2001 analysis - part 62: The monolith and the 'Pulp Fiction' briefcase


From Pulp Fiction: Jules, with one hand on the briefcase, points his gun at Ringo.

Earlier in the analysis we said that the aliens have placed diamonds stolen from Earth inside the monolith, and that they are transporting them to Jupiter. We have also observed that the Pulp Fiction briefcase is physically similar in appearance to a small monolith.

It was observed in the analysis of Pulp Fiction that the briefcase contains something different for each man associated with it: Ringo sees gold in it, Vincent sees drugs, Marsellus sees money, and Jules believes it contains enlightenment (in the Buddhist sense). We can link what each man sees in the case with the fact that the monolith contains diamonds, when we realize that diamonds can be taken to represent certain things. Obviously, diamonds are of high monetary value, so this explains why Marsellus sees money inside the briefcase. To explain Ringo seeing gold, we note the connection between diamonds and gold: Philosophers...had a more naturalistic approach to explain the origin of gems: Plato for example believed gemstones were a consequence of fermentation in the stars, where a diamond actually formed the kernel of gold-bearing mass. In fact often diamonds were linked to gold, which may have found its origin in the joint occurrence of diamonds with quartzite, quartz veins and an occasional occurrence of gold in them.[a]

The connection between diamonds, and Jules seeing enlightenment, is derived from the name of a Buddhist text called the Diamond Sutra; in Buddhism, the ultimate goal is enlightenment, which is what Jules is seeking. Vincent, who is depicted as being a drug user, believes drugs are in the case; this is no doubt linked to the 1967 Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, whose title can be taken as having the 'initials' 'LSD'. LSD is a hallucinogenic drug; recall that earlier in the analysis, we linked hallucinogenics to the 'psychedelic' images Bowman sees in the stargate.

Above left: Pulp Fiction's Vincent Vega. Above right: Pulp Fiction's Marsellus Wallace (with shotgun). The man standing near him is boxer Butch Coolidge.

It is no doubt the case that each of the four men mentioned above represents, to at least some degree, a character from A Space Odyssey. As we've already noted, Vincent represents David Bowman, at least within the context of Bowman passing through the stargate (the 'trip' metaphor); Marsellus, who sends two hit men to retrieve the briefcase, represents Satan; Ringo corresponds to Heywood Floyd; and Jules represents the 'ape-man' in 2001 who discovers that a bone can be picked up and used to hit things (i.e., it can be used as a weapon; the ape-man's ability to make such a discovery, was enabled by his earlier having touched the monolith). Then, within this context of each man in Pulp Fiction representing someone in A Space Odyssey, we can also draw a correspondence between the briefcase contents, and what the monolith represents in each of its four appearances: In the first and last appearances of it (in the primeval segment, and at the foot of Bowman's bed at the end), it represents enlightenment; at TMA-1 (Ringo/diner in Pulp Fiction), it 'contains' gold (in the sense of the correspondence of gold with diamonds, as described above); and when it is shown floating near Jupiter, it 'contains' drugs, within the context of the David Bowman/Vincent Vega-drugs correspondence. Ultimately, then, the monolith physically contains diamonds, and metaphorically speaking, it in part represents enlightenment. Note that in Pulp Fiction, we are never shown Marsellus looking inside the briefcase - this corresponds to the fact that we are never specifically shown Satan himself 'looking at' the monolith in A Space Odyssey. However, the 'cash value' of the briefcase contents for Marsellus corresponds to the high value of the monolith contents to Satan. The fact that Satan places high value on the diamonds in the monolith, explains why he sent the two hit men to TMA-1, to retrieve the diamonds from the aliens. (Also, recall that one of the aliens at TMA-1 is working as an informant for Satan).

a. Wikipedia, 'Diamond (gemstone)'. Web, n.d. URL =


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