Study Guide

Pulp Fiction Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson)

Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson)

You don't mess with Jules Winnfield. He's one dangerous, intimidating dude—a stone-cold killer.

Let him tell you himself:

JULES: I'm a mushroom cloud-layin' motherf***er, motherf***er!

Samuel L. Jackson scooped up Oscar and Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nominations for his memorable portrayal of Jules, and he won the BAFTA award for it. And for good reason: Jules is a character of biblical proportions. He's probably the most complex character in the film, as we actually witness him undergo a change from assassin to redeemed man.

As a killer, Jules is as cool as they come, casually chatting up his victims before he blows them away. He's a professional. But if there's one thing Pulp Fiction teaches us, it's that hitmen are people too. In fact, the whole evil gangster thing is really just an act for Jules. It's just his job. After bantering with Vincent while killing time before the hit, Jules tells Vincent:

JULES: That's an interesting point, but let's get into character.

By "getting onto character," Jules means terrorizing then executing a bunch of young drug dealers who double-crossed his boss Marsellus. Reciting his favorite biblical passage about vengeance (Ezekiel 25:17 somewhat amped up for maximum effect), the tension builds to an ultimate high:

JULES: […] And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you."

The dealers are dead men.

But then a miracle happens right before his eyes, as a gunman who was hiding in the bathroom bursts out misses a few close range shots that should have left both Jules and Vincent dead. Jules is convinced that he was just saved by the hand of God and therefore forced to reevaluate his life in the vengeance business:

JULES: We should be f***in' dead!

VINCENT: Yeah, we were lucky.

JULES: That s*** wasn't luck. That s*** was somethin' else.

VINCENT: Yeah, maybe.

JULES: That was... divine intervention. You know what divine intervention is?

VINCENT: Yeah, I think so. That means God came down from Heaven and stopped the bullets.

JULES: Yeah, man, that's what is means. That's exactly what it means! God came down from Heaven and stopped the bullets.

Vincent doesn't buy it, but Jules won't let go.

VINCENT: Do you wanna continue this theological discussion in the car, or at the jailhouse with the cops?

JULES: We should be f***in' dead now, my friend! We just witnessed a miracle, and I want you to f***in' acknowledge it!

The conversation does continue in the car, and Jules drops this bomb:

JULES: If you wanna play blind man, then go walk with a Shepherd. But me, my eyes are wide f***in' open.

VINCENT: What the f*** does that mean?

JULES: That's it for me. For here on in, you can consider my ass retired.

Jules' new career plan is to "walk the earth" like Caine in "Kung Fu," meeting people, getting into adventures, and doing what he thinks God wants him to do as long as God wants him to do it. Vincent thinks it's an excuse to be a bum, but Jules isn't fazed; he doesn't care what people think. His new attitude gets put to the test that very morning, as his peaceful breakfast is interrupted by Yolanda and Ringo jumping up, guns pointed at everyone.

The old Jules would have killed them in about 30 seconds. Well, maybe more because he'd have recited his Ezekiel verses first. But he's taken the miracle to heart and controls himself. He pulls out his gun and keeps it cocked, under the table. When Pumpkin comes over and menacingly waves his gun around, Jules is cool:

JULES: I don't mean to shatter your ego, but this ain't the first time I've had a gun pointed at me.

Jules manages to turn the tables and is soon back in control, with his gun under Ringo's chin. But he calms the situation down with his intimidating cool, and we see something amazing. He tells Ringo:

JULES: Now this is the situation. Normally both of your asses would be dead as f***in' fried chicken. But you happened to pull this s*** while I'm in a transitional period. I don't wanna kill ya, I want to help ya.

When Vincent comes out of the bathroom and sees what's going down, Jules has to keep Vincent from blowing Ringo and Yolanda's brains out. Jules hands over his wallet to Ringo; Vincent can't believe it.

JULES: Besides, I ain't givin' it to him. I'm buyin' somethin' for my money. Wanna know what I'm buyin' Ringo?

RINGO: What?

JULES: Your life. I'm givin' you that money so I don't hafta kill your ass.

Jules recites his Ezekiel speech to Ringo and says:

JULES: I been sayin' that s*** for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your ass. I never really questioned what it meant. I thought it was just a coldblooded thing to say to a motherf***er 'fore you popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some s*** this mornin' made me think twice.

Jules goes on to talk about what that passage from Ezekiel about evil and shepherds and vengeance really means. He has to consider the possibility that…

JULES: The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin'. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd.

And with that, our ultimate tough guy gives his robbers the money, and walks out of the diner planning to deliver the briefcase and walk the earth. It's an unlikely redemption story—the toughest of the tough guys turns his life around. Jules knows it won't be easy; notice he says "I'm tryin'."

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