Religion & Pulp Fiction 

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"When I Lay My Vengeance Upon Thee" :
Evil & Punishment in Pulp Fiction 

Vincent Vega 

While Jules and Butch are able to escape the capitalistic clutches of society and are redeemed by God, the same cannot be said for Vincent Vega and Marcellus Wallace. 

Vincent is ignorant to the signs of God. Jules sees their near escape from death as "divine intervention". Vincent however views their survival as nothing more as a "freak occurrence", and remains virtually unchanged. The discrepancies between Vincent's and Jules' opinions are evident in the following scene. 

*Warning: The following scene contains graphic violence and coarse language. Viewer discretion is advised. 

Midway through discrediting the lord's work, Vincent's gun accidentally fires. Throughout the scene, Vincent speaks God's name in vain and continues to ignore the "divine intervention" which he and Jules just experienced. 

Like the "divine intervention", the inconvenient and untimely death of Marvin is another sign of God. God is punishing Vincent for his ignorance and is challenging his nihilistic way of life. Once again, Vincent refuses to acknowledge God which results in further punishment. 

Although Vincent is a charming and ultimately a very likeable character, his fatal flaw is his narcissism. At his core, Vincent is selfish and is driven by money and drugs. Every action Vincent makes is only to benefit himself. His narcissism is best depicted with his relationship with Marcellus Wallace's wife, Mia. 

Vincent is asked by Marcellus to take his wife out while he is away on business. After returning to the Wallace mansion after dinner, tension builds between Vincent and Mia, and the anticipation of sex is apparent. Sensing trouble arising, Vincent excuses himself to the bathroom where he gives himself a pep talk of sorts,"... it's a moral test of yourself, whether or not you can maintain loyalty. Because when people are loyal to each other, that's very meaningful" (Tarantino). 

While Vincent talks about loyalty, that is not truly his main concern - "despite his comments about the "meaningful" nature of fidelity and friendship, Vincent's loyalty finds its motivation not in his affection and esteem for Marsellus, but in his fears about the mob boss's possible retaliation for such a personal indiscretion" (Davis & Womack). Vincent does not sleep with Mia because he is afraid of his boss' method of retaliation, not because of loyalty. 

Vincent's narcissism continues when he saves Mia from a heroin overdose. This seemingly selfless and heroic act is nothing more then Vincent continuing to protect himself. By saving Mia's life, Vincent insures his own safety. As Vincent says himself, "now if she f***in' croaks on me, I'm a grease spot" (Tarantino). Had Vincent been an accessory to Mia's death, Marcellus would have violently punished Vincent, therefore, Vincent saves Mia in order to save himself. 

Vincent's narcissism and greed, combined with his ignorance to God's will, ultimately leads to his demise. He was given multiple opportunities for redemption, however, Vincent's selfishness and materialistic nature caused him to continue on a path of violence. God finally punishes him for his wrongdoings when Vincent is killed by Butch with his own weapon. 

The use of Vincent's gun when murdered by Butch is symbolic of his self-destructive nature. Vincent could have been saved, but his narcissism prevented him from being able to see God's work.  

Marcellus Wallace 

Marcellus can be viewed as the main source of evil throughout Pulp Fiction. Marcellus is referred to as the “hub character” (Newan), which connects the various characters together. Marcellus attempts to control the lives of all the other characters in the film. Marcellus tries to play God, and uses Jules, Vincent, and Butch as his puppets in order for him to earn more money. For instance, Marcellus attempts to use Butch to determine the outcome of his fight - something that God should only be able to control. 

Marcellus represents capitalism within society and tries to control his subordinates with material objects and money. One manner in which he attempts to control Jules and Vincent is with his mysterious briefcase. While it is unknown what the exact contents of the briefcase are, Jules and Vincent are willing to risk their lives in order to return it to its rightful owner, their boss Marcellus. The briefcase is symbolic of desires and temptation of consumerism. The lock-code to the case is “666”, the number that represents the devil, illustrating the evil nature of consumerism.

As the owner of the briefcase, and the creator of the nihilistic and capitalistic world of the film, Marcellus can be viewed as the devil. Marcellus’ life is dominated by violence and money, and is void of all religious meaning.

Like Vincent, Marcellus is punished for attempting to play God and living a nihilistic and materialistic life. While Marcellus is not killed, he is brutally raped and assaulted.

By choosing consumerism over God’s will, both Marcellus and Vincent are punished. It is clear that God does not take kindly to being ignored.

Created by Jordan Steinhauer for Dr. Jennifer Porter's Religion 2812 class at Memorial University. 

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