Study Guide

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction Summary

Pulp Fiction is a collection of stories, which, although interconnected, can get a bit confusing because they're shown out of order. Tarantino evidently took the advice of legendary film director Jean-Luc Godard, one of his idols, who said that "A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order." But not to worry, Shmoop will take you through all the action chronologically…or as close to it as we can get.

Warning: there will be blood.

The movie begins with the two gangsters, Jules and Vincent, headed off on an early morning mission to claim a briefcase with some important contents that belongs to their boss, Marsellus. They talk about Vincent's recent travels in Europe and how Marsellus almost killed a guy for massaging his wife's feet.

Uh…okay.

When they arrive at their destination, they confront the young drug dealers who've apparently tried to mess with Marsellus and keep the briefcase. Jules and Vincent shoot two of them as their informer, Marvin, cowers in the corner. A fourth kid pops out of the bathroom (because why not) and empties a clip at them but misses. Jules takes this as a sign of divine intervention.

On the drive back to return the briefcase to Marsellus, Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in the head in the middle of a discussion about Jules' divine intervention theory.

You read that right: he accidentally shoots him in the head. That's a thing.

They drive to the home of Jimmie, a "friend" of Jules. Marsellus sends his professional problem solver, The Wolf, to clean up the mess. The Wolf succeeds in getting the boys out of Jimmie's hair and disposes of the car and the body before Jimmie's wife gets home.

While we're on the topic, if anyone ever calls themselves a problem solver…run.

Jules and Vincent decide to stop at a diner for breakfast, where Jules tells Vincent that he's quitting his life of crime because of the way his life was divinely spared. After they return the briefcase, he's done; he plans to "walk the earth." The diner's about to be robbed by Ringo and Yolanda, small-time crooks who we see chatting about how robbing a bank or a diner makes so much more sense than the liquor stores they've been holding up. But when Ringo makes his way over to Jules, Jules disarms him and then tries to talk some sense into Ringo and into himself. He lets Ringo off with his own money and a life lesson. Aw.

Then it's off to Marsellus where they see the boss just finishing up a conversation with a boxer, Butch. Butch takes Marsellus' money in exchange for agreeing to fix his next boxing match by going down in the fifth round. Vincent's next assignment is to keep Marsellus' wife Mia company that evening while the boss is away on business. This is a very risky proposition; remember the rumor about the guy who got thrown out the window? Yeah.

Before he heads over to her place, he buys some heroin and shoots up. Because that's just what happens in Pulp Fiction. Then he takes her to a '50s diner where they have some burgers and enter a twist competition. Vincent is very attracted to Mia, and when they get back to her house, he goes into the bathroom to remind himself to keep his hands off her. While he's in there, Mia overdoses by snorting some of Vincent's heroin, which she thought was cocaine. Vincent drives her to Lance's (his drug dealer) house where they revive a dying Mia with a dramatic adrenaline shot to the heart.

Oof.

The next day, Butch wakes up from a dream/memory of receiving his great grandfather's watch from a captain who was a POW with his father. We don't see Butch's fight, but he KOs his opponent in the first round, defying Marsellus' orders. He flees the scene into a waiting taxi, where the driver informs him that the guy he knocked out died. The taxi takes him to a motel, where his girlfriend Fabienne is waiting for him. She picked up some stuff from Butch's apartment in preparation for fleeing town.

When Butch wakes up in the morning, he realizes Fabienne forgot his very important watch, so he risks going back to his apartment to retrieve it. While there, he sees a gun on the counter, and he hears someone flush the toilet. When that someone—Vincent—comes out of the bathroom, Butch (surprise!) shoots him and then gets out. But as he's driving back, he happens upon Marsellus walking back to Butch's apartment stakeout with coffee and donuts. Butch tries to run him over and ends up crashing into another car. In case you wanted more blood.

Both Marsellus and Butch are pretty hurt, but Marsellus doesn't care. He chases Butch until Butch ducks into a pawn shop. Marsellus follows but is caught off-guard by Butch, who's about to kill him when the pawn shop owner pulls out a shotgun and clocks him a good one. When Marsellus and Butch wake up, they're tied up in the shop basement by Maynard, the sicko shop owner, and his equally sicko buddy Zed.

Maynard and Zed decide to rape Marsellus first. Butch is able to escape and is about to hit the road when he has second thoughts about rescuing Marsellus. He turns around, grabs a samurai sword from the pawnshop, and goes into the back room of the basement. He slices up Maynard and gives Marsellus enough time to castrate Zed with a shotgun. Marcellus says they're even so long as he doesn't tell anyone about this and leaves town immediately and permanently. Butch jumps on Zed's motorcycle, grabs his girl, and gets out of town.

The end.

Whew.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    • Ringo and Yolanda (who go by the robber pseudonyms Pumpkin and Honey Bunny) are sitting in a diner having a nice chat…about robbing liquor stores.
    • Ringo says it's too risky and no longer worth it. Robbing a bank would make so much more sense.
    • Then he suggests they rob the diner. Yolanda agrees so they pull out their pistols and get started right away.
    • Suddenly the screen freezes and some funky upbeat music starts playing as the credits begin to roll.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    • Hitmen Vincent Vega and Jules Winfield are driving in the car talking about Europe and the different names they have for fast food chain hamburgers.
    • Like you know what they call a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese in France? A Royale with Cheese. This is an educational film.
    • The conversation switches to foot massages because their boss Marsellus Wallace threw some dude out a window for giving one to his wife, or so they've heard.
    • Jules is appalled but Vincent gets it. He knows that a foot massage is never just a foot massage.
    • Finally it's time to get down to business, so they enter their destination and chat up the three young drug dealers inside.
    • Brett politely allows Jules to have a bite of his burger and a drink from his soda while Vincent finds the briefcase that contains whatever they're hoping it contains.
    • Before leaving, Jules shoots one of the three boys and starts yelling at Brett who apparently tried to screw over Marsellus.
    • Jules begins to recite a verse from Ezekiel and when he finishes he and Vincent shoot Brett with more bullets than are really necessary.
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    • Butch and Marsellus are talking in Marsellus' bar.
    • Marsellus is fixing a boxing match with Butch. He gives Butch money and tells him to fight through his pride and to make sure he goes down in the fifth.
    • Jules and Vincent walk in wearing slightly less professional clothes than before.
    • Jules and the bartender laugh about Vincent taking Mia Wallace out to dinner and then Vincent talks some smack to Butch before heading over to see Marsellus.
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    • Vincent goes to a heroin dealer to buy some heroin.
    • He buys some heroin.
    • He shoots some heroin.
    • Then he drives to pick up Mia Wallace.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    • Vincent walks in to the Wallace house and Mia directs him to the intercom where she talks to him. She's upstairs getting ready. Vincent makes himself a drink.
    • Mia does a line of cocaine and comes down to meet him.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    • They drive up to Jack Rabbit Slims, a swinging, '50s style burger joint where they sit down in a Chrysler booth and order some food, including an expensive (though ultimately delicious) $5 milkshake.
    • Mia chats about her role in the pilot for "Fox Force Five" before going into the bathroom to powder her nose (and yes, that's a euphemism for snorting more cocaine).
    • When they come back we learn that Tony Rocky Horror never actually gave Mia a foot massage and no one knows why Marsellus threw him out the window.
    • Then there's a twist contest and Mia insists that they compete so they slip out of their shoes and get groovy.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    • They get back to Mia's house, dance trophy in hand, and Mia puts on some tunes and starts singing and dancing while Vincent goes to the bathroom.
    • In the bathroom, Vincent gives himself a pep talk about just going home and not messing around with Mia.
    • Meanwhile, Mia finds Vincent's heroin but mistakes it for cocaine.
    • She snorts it and goes into shock. Snorting heroin actually brings it into the bloodstream faster than injecting it directly into the bloodstream with a needle. It's generally a very bad idea.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    • Vincent drives like a madman straight to Lance's (his heroin dealer) house. Or, should we say, into Lance's house, because he literally crashes into it.
    • Lance wants him to leave but when Vincent tells him it's Marsellus Wallace's wife who overdosed, he decides to bring her in. Wouldn't want Marsellus to hear that he let his wife die.
    • His wife grabs the adrenaline shot and then everyone has a shouting match as Lance looks for a little medical booklet because apparently he's never had to do this before.
    • Vincent takes the needle and, on the count of three, stabs Mia hard enough to pierce her breastplate and enter her heart.
    • It works.
    • Mia dramatically bolts upright. Everyone's relieved.
    • Vincent drives Mia home, both still in a kind of shock.
    • When they get out they make a deal never to mention this incident to Marsellus. Then Mia tells him a "Fox Force Five" joke which involves a tomato family and a ketchup/catch up pun. Totally worth the wait.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    • A young Butch is watching some cartoons when his mom walks in and tells him to listen to what some military uniformed stranger wants to tell him.
    • Turns out the stranger is Captain Koons, a man who was with Butch's father in a POW camp in Hanoi for five years, and then for another two after Butch's father died before he was released.
    • He shows Butch the face of a watch and tells him the story about how his great-grandfather bought it and handed it down to his grandfather when he went into the Marines and how he, before his death, gave the watch to a stranger who transported the watch to his son, Butch's father who, in the POW camp, hid the watch in his rectum before eventually dying of dysentery and giving the watch to Koons. Got that?
    • Young Butch takes the watch.
  • Scene 10

    Scene 10

    • Butch wakes up from the scene like out of a dream. He's dressed in his boxing robe and gloves and is about ready to fight.
    • We hear about the fight on the radio as we see Butch jump out of a two story window and into a dumpster.
    • Then we're in a taxi, where the radio tells us that the man Butch fought is dead which means Butch killed him, won the fight, and is now on the run from Marsellus who was expecting him to throw it and probably just lost a ton of money.
    • He talks to the cab driver about what it feels like to kill a man. He says he didn't even know he was dead and now that he knows he doesn't feel the least bit bad.
    • He chats on the phone with a friend who collected some serious cash because the odds went in his opponent's favor once news of the fix got out. Butch bet on himself.
    • We see Vincent and the bartender enter a room with Mia and Marsellus and the dead boxer.
    • Marsellus says he'll scour the earth looking for Butch. No one takes advantage of Marsellus.
    • Butch and his woman, Fabienne, cuddle in the motel room they're hiding out in before taking off to Tennessee.
    • They talk about potbellies (which we hope is a euphemism for pregnancy otherwise it's a little weird) and practice asking for shoe store directions in Spanish before Butch passes out on the bed.
  • Scene 11

    Scene 11

    • Butch wakes up from a bad dream to a motorcycle action movie.
    • When he starts going through his stuff, he doesn't see his watch.
    • Fabienne's pretty sure she brought it but not that sure.
    • Butch gets really mad and starts yelling at her. He picks up the TV and throws it across the room as Fabienne scrambles off the bed and into the corner.
    • Butch sits down and cools it, telling her it's not her fault and that he should have illustrated how personal the watch was to him instead of simply reminding her not to forget it.
    • He goes back to the apartment at the risk of running into the gangsters who are looking for him.
  • Scene 12

    Scene 12

    • Butch drives back to his place complaining aloud about how Fabienne forgot the watch.
    • He pulls to a stop and walks between a few houses and across an empty lot, approaching his building from a back route.
    • He makes his way up the stairs and into his empty apartment.
    • He grabs the watch and, feeling good about himself, pops a few Toaster Pastries in the toaster.
    • Then he notices a gun sitting on the counter and hears the toilet flush from behind the closed door of the bathroom.
    • Out comes Vincent who's very surprised to see Butch pointing his own gun at him. The Toaster Pastries pop up and the sound jolts Butch into opening a burst of fire into Vincent.
    • The smoke alarm goes off and Butch looks in the bathroom to see a very dead Vincent.
  • Scene 13

    Scene 13

    • Driving off, Butch congratulates himself on his success and sings along to the radio.
    • But when he pulls up to a stoplight he sees Marsellus, who's crossing the street with a coffee and some food.
    • After they stare each other down in a brief moment of disbelief, Butch steps on the gas and runs into Marsellus and then continues into the intersection where he crashes into another car. The scene cuts to black.
    • We see a bunch of people crowding around a dazed Marsellus, who struggles to his feet. But when he sees Butch, who's also injured and being helped out of his car with blood all over his face, he whips out his pistol and opens fire.
    • Marsellus chases Butch into a pawn shop.
    • Butch ambushes Marsellus and beats him to the ground. He takes his gun and is about to kill him but the store owner, Maynard, pulls out his own shotgun, forces Butch to drop the weapon and then knocks him out.
  • Scene 14

    Scene 14

    • Butch and Marsellus wake to a blast of water. They're somewhere that appears to be a basement and are both bound to chairs and have their mouths gagged shut with red balls and leather straps. It doesn't look good.
    • Maynard's security guard pal Zed comes over and they wake up the Gimp, a bondage slave, apparently, who they keep in a locked, wooden chest in a leather straightjacket.
    • Zed can't choose which one of them he wants to "do first" so he uses the old eeny-meeny-miney-moe and ends on Marsellus.
    • They chain up the Gimp to watch over Butch while they take Marsellus into the next room and rape him.
    • Butch, being the strong boxer man that he is, breaks his ties and knocks out the Gimp before heading up stairs.
    • But just as he's about to leave he turns around, listening to the men raping Marsellus and conflicted over whether to rescue him.
    • Finally he turns around and after a little searching finds the perfect weapon, a katana.
    • He enters the room and slices up Maynard when he turns around. Zed tries to go for his gun but Butch stops him.
    • Marsellus is up now and has a gun. He shoots Zed in the genitals and tells him what's going to happen during the rest of his short painful life. It involves gangsters taking him apart with pliers and a blowtorch.
    • He calls it even with Butch, so long as Butch never mentions what's happened and leaves LA and never comes back.
    • Butch leaves, taking Zed's chopper "Grace" (get it?) on the way out.
  • Scene 15

    Scene 15

    • Butch shows up and grabs Fabienne.
    • He tells her to forget the bags and just leave.
    • She starts to cry because she was so worried and he comforts her and tells her again that they need to go right now.
  • Scene 16

    Scene 16

    • We see a terrified young man with a giant handgun hiding in a bathroom.
    • He's listening to Jules give his Ezekiel speech to Brett. Then Jules shoots Brett. Marvin, the black friend standing in the corner, starts freaking out because two of his friends were killed.
    • Then our gun wielding bathroom guy pops out and empties his enormous gun at Jules and Vincent.
    • Bad idea. Every shot misses.
    • They kill him.
    • Vincent's not happy with Marvin, who turns out to be their informant, for not mentioning the guy in the bathroom, while Jules is astonished that they're still alive and insists that what they witnessed was a divine intervention.
  • Scene 17

    Scene 17

    • In the car, Jules and Vincent are still arguing about whether what just happened was random chance or an act of God.
    • Jules is so convinced that he says he's going to retire from the life; he's through.
    • Vincent turns around to ask Marvin his opinion about the situation but forgets to put the safety on his gun which goes off, killing Marvin and splattering his blood and brains all over them and the car.
    • Vincent is very annoyed.
    • Jules calls up his friend Jimmie so that they can get off the road ASAP.
  • Scene 18

    Scene 18

    • Jimmie's not happy that Jules and Vincent brought a dead person to his home.
    • He needs them to get out before his wife Bonnie comes home from work in an hour and a half because she'll divorce him if she finds out he's involved with this kind of stuff.
    • Jules is freaking out a bit; this is complicating his recent retirement plans.
    • Vincent, who doesn't really have a lot of respect for Jimmie, isn't helping matters.
    • But when Jules calls Marsellus and Marsellus says he's sending The Wolf, Jules feels a lot better.
  • Scene 19

    Scene 19

    • Winston Wolf shows up in a tuxedo, having left a gambling party, and immediately gets to work. He's all business, just wants the facts.
    • Jimmie, Jules, and Vincent give him the lowdown on the situation and he tells Jimmie to grab all his linens and blankets and tells Jules and Vincent to clean the car.
    • Jimmie protests that these are his good linens, wedding gifts and all.
    • The Wolf peels off some big bills and assures Jimmie that Marsellus will cover the damage.
    • Vincent doesn't like being told what to do but The Wolf shuts him up real quick. The Wolf is in charge.
    • When the car looks passable, The Wolf has Jules and Vincent strip and then hoses them down.
    • They put on some of Jimmie's clothes and they look pretty ridiculous.
    • The Wolf leads them to Monster Joe's and the car's disposed of, Marvin and all.
    • The Wolf introduces them to his lady friend, Raquel and then speeds off.
    • Jules and Vincent decide to get some breakfast.
  • Scene 20

    Scene 20

    • Jules and Vincent talk over breakfast; muffins for Jules and a bacon-pancake combo for Vincent.
    • Vincent asks Jules if he wants some bacon which starts a debate over dirty animals and what makes an animal dirty or not dirty. They discuss the "miracle" thing. Convinced his very life is owed to a divine intervention, he plans on completing this last job and simply walking the earth.
    • Vincent says that he's just going to be a bum but Jules thinks it's all a matter of perspective.
    • As soon as Vincent heads into the bathroom, Ringo and Yolanda pull out their guns and begin robbing the diner. They force all the customers and employees to the ground and start taking everyone's wallets.
    • When Ringo gets to Jules he takes his wallet and then tells him to open the briefcase.
    • Jules says no, the briefcase belongs to a friend and he can't give it up.
    • But when Ringo threatens to blow him away on the count of three, he opens it for him, revealing whatever shiny goodness is inside.
    • Taking advantage of Ringo's awe, Jules turns the tables and in two seconds has a gun under Ringo's chin.
    • They have clearly messed with the wrong guy.
    • Yolanda starts freaking and points her gun at Jules. Jules makes Ringo tell her to shut up and be cool. Then Vincent walks out and points his gun at Yolanda in a favorite Tarantino standoff move.
    • More yelling ensues but eventually Jules gets everyone to calm down.
    • Then he has Ringo pull out his wallet and take the $1500-ish from it and keep it.
    • He recites his biblical passage to Ringo and tells him that he's never really thought about what it means. He talks about its possible interpretations but concludes that he's been the tyranny but that he's trying to be the shepherd.
    • Ringo and Yolanda leave followed by Vincent and Jules who tuck their guns into their short-shorts before heading out.