Study Guide

Pulp Fiction Point of View

Point of View

A Collage of Characters and a Superfluity of Stories

Quick—name the only character that appears in all three parts of the movie.

Time's up. Answer: Vincent Vega.

Two of the sections, his night out with Mia and the Bonnie Situation, are very much about him. Of course, he's also with Jules in the diner sequence and thanks to his brief appearance in Butch's apartment, that leaves him as our singular character connecting together the three interlocking stories of Pulp Fiction. (Maybe that's why Travolta was nominated for Best Actor to Jackson's Best Supporting Actor.)

Tarantino's storytelling in this film is completely non-linear. In the last scene, the characters walk into a situation that was the first scene. Why? Would it have been so bad to start with the "Royale with Cheese" and end with Butch, Fabienne, and Grace, like the arrow of time intended it to be? Tarantino keeps doubling back on the story, doling out info about the characters and the plot in a disjointed and piecemeal way, leaving us to try to figure out what's happening when. Here's what he said about it in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine:

Part of the fun of Pulp is that if you're hip to movies, you're watching the boxing movie Body and Soul and then suddenly the characters turn a corner and they're in the middle of Deliverance. And you're like, "What? How did I get into Deliverance? I was in Body and Soul, what's going on here?" (Source)

So the narrative style does a bunch of things:

  • First, it keeps us engaged with the film while we try to figure out what we know from other scenes and what's going on.
  • Second, it keeps us unbalanced, because we never know what's going to happen next.
  • Third, it makes us go back to watch the movie over and over again to get all the inter-story references and watch certain parts with a fuller understanding of the characters and the plot. You can't get all the nuances and hints on a first viewing. Director Joe Lynch saw it 147 times. That probably helped the box office back in 1994.

The nonlinear narrative also lets Tarantino focus on character development rather than story. Each character shines in one or another of the stories; they own the story. If everything had been in order, we might be carried along by the story and pay less attention to the characters. It's also easier to appreciate the visual effect of the film if you don't have to worry about the story and just let the film happen to you. Would we be able to watch that final diner scene in the same way, not knowing that Vincent is a dead man walking? The shift in chronology changes how we learn about the characters just like our view of the characters changes how we feel about each story.

The narrative style spawned a small industry of making of handy charts like this and this to help us understand the real-time sequence of events. 

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