Biblical Themes

Sex is not an uncommon event in movies today. There seems to be a certain recipe to the average movie, and sex is one of the ingredients. The usual scenario is the hero of the movie and the leading lady finding a few minutes in the middle of the movie to have sex. Sometimes this scene is tender with some romantic music in the background, and other times it is a frenzied, clothes-ripping, near-violent scene. Pulp Fiction veers from the normal movie format. The act of heterosexual sex is not part of the movie at all. Instead, the attitudes towards what is termed “fucking” are the main focus. These attitudes are looked at through the eyes of the male characters in the film. The word fucking takes on several meanings in the film depending on the situation. It can mean the physical act or trying to take advantage of someone. One of the major themes of this film is what happens when a man fucks another man. The film takes an Old Testament stance on the issue of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The theme is summed up in one commandment that dominates the book: Fuck with a man and his property, and “…I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers” (32). Jules and Vincent first indirectly discuss this commandment when they are talking about the fate of Antwan Rockomora. Jules relates what happened to Antwan: “Well, Marsellus fucked his ass up good. And word around the campfire is, it was on account of Marsellus Wallace’s wife” (18). Right away, the subject of man fucking man is brought up. We find out that Antwan supposedly gave Mia Wallace a foot massage and that is why he was thrown out of a window. Although Jules finds this punishment uncalled for, to Vincent it makes sense: “No, it’s laying hands on Marsellus Wallace’s new wife in a familiar way. Is it as bad as eatin’ her pussy out—no, but you’re in the same fuckin’ ballpark” (20). The real issue here is not one of Mia Wallace and what happened between Antwan and her. It is an issue of one man messing with another man’s property. Thou shall not covet another man’s wife. Antwan crossed a live with Marsellus and was punished for it. The next sequence in the film gives another example of a man messing with another man’s affairs. This time it involves the boys who tried to rip off Marsellus. As Jules puts it: “Does-he-look-like-a-bitch?! …Then why did you try to fuck ’im like a bitch?! …Yes ya did Brett. Ya tried ta fuck ’im and Marsellus don’t like to be fucked by anybody except Missus Wallace.” 32 Again, a case of a man breaking this fundamental commandment by messing with another man’s property. The language that Jules uses to describe to Brett why he is about to die shows how trying to steal another man’ property is viewed. It is a direct assault on the man. It is very fitting that Jules uses a Bible verse right before he kills Brett. It stresses the justice that has been and still is prevalent in society. Later, when Vincent goes to buy heroin from Lance, they talk about Vincent’s car. Vincent tells about how it got keyed and says: “It’s chicken shit. You don’t fuck another man’s vehicle… It’s against the rules” (43). In Vincent’s comment, the car is essentially a woman. Keying a car is a relatively minor offense compared to stealing a stereo or the car itself, yet Lance claims that the person who did it should not get a trial, that s/he should just be executed. This is very similar to the idea of a foot massage. Although it is not having sex with a woman, it still is a punishable offense. It does not matter whether it be the car, a woman, or “dirty laundry,” a man’s property is not to be violated. If a man’s property is messed with, it is seen as a direct attempt to fuck the man. Butch has one possession that he cherishes above all others—his gold watch. Earlier in the movie Vincent insults Butch in Marsellus’s club: “I ain’t your friend, palooka… I think you heard me just fine, punchy” (38). Vincent also happens to be the hit man assigned to kill Butch after the fight. In a way, Vincent had messed with Butch and stood in the way of the one piece of property that Butch values. Vincent dies at the hands of Butch. Mason-Dixon Pawnshop could double as a hip S & M club if it were not run by Maynard and Zed. Instead, it is every Northerner’s worst nightmare of the South. Neither Butch nor Marsellus expect the bizarre occurrences that happen when they stumble into the hillbilly hellhole. In this scene, the word fuck takes on a very twisted sexual meaning when Maynard and Zed take turns raping Marsellus. The use of Maynard and Zed as the deviants in this scene is a direct play on the belief of many Americans that the South is filled with these types of men. This time, the only property of Marsellus’s that is being messed with is is pride and dignity. It is truly a situation of one man fucking another. The same pride and dignity that is being taken from Marsellus grabs hold of Butch as he begins to leave the pawn shop. This dignity takes him back down into the basement where he kills Maynard and frees Marsellus. Then Marsellus takes care of Zed: “What now? Well, let me tell you what now. I’m gonna call a coupla pipe-hitting niggers, who’ll go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch. Hear me talkin’, hillbilly boy?! I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. I’m gonna git Medieval on your ass” (131). Again, the commandment is fulfilled. Maynard and Zed both suffer the same fate as every other character in the film who has tried to, in one way or another, fuck another man. The interesting twist on this scene is that possibly Marsellus got what he deserved for his past behaviour. Maybe he was suffering for what he had done to Antwan or to the boys. Possibly he was suffering for trying to manipulate and then kill Butch. The most probable reason is just pure chance. As Maynard says: “…Zed? It’s Maynard. The spider just caught a coupla flies” (123). The most important aspect of the scene is what happens to the Brothers Grimm after they rape Marsellus and how it follows with the trend of the movie. This film definitely sticks to this theme of men being killed for trying to fuck with a man and his business. This is the law of the streets. It is also a fundamental concept of justice in Judaism. Not to say that this film is anything like the Old Testament, but the concept of law and justice in both do have many similarities. In Judaism, anyone who tried to hurt the people of Israel was punished by the wrath of God. The Egyptians and Sodom and Gomorra are examples of the vengeance of the Lord in the Old Testament. The hand of God seems to be at work in Pulp Fiction too. If the theory that Marsellus Wallace’s soul was in the briefcase, then three fundamental laws were broken. A man coveted Wallace’s wife, some men tried to steal his soul, and two men committed obscene acts of the flesh against him. For the crimes, divine justice intervened to punish the men who tried to fuck Marsellus.