Pulp Fiction Narrative

Pulp Fiction is a crime film released in 1994 by film maker Quentin Tarantino. The film has a non-linear narrative with multi strand narratives. When released Tarantino influenced a tremendous growth in non-linear films.


A non-linear narrative, also called a disrupted narrative, is a narrative technique used in film. The non-linear narrative challenges the conventional rules of a chronological construction of the plot and is presented out of chronological order. In pulp Fiction Tarantino use the non-linear narrative to unravel a complicated event and present the events from the perspective of the different characters. The use of the non-linear narrative was for dramatic purposes. The controversial way of telling the story make the film more compelling to the audience, than if the scenes were progressed in chronological order. This unconventional way of presenting events challenge the viewer’s memory in the way that they can only understand the plot by making cause-and-effect connections between the scenes. This draws in the audience and makes the film more interesting and exciting. The plot in Pulp Fiction twists and the movie’s non-linear structure puts the emphasis on the characters as a strategy to describe that their personalities is free of the limitations.

Pulp Fiction structures around three interrelated storylines: Vincent Vega, Butch Coolidge and Jules Winnfield. Vincent Vega is the lead of the first story and is a hit man for Marcellus Wallace. The narrative is the prizefighter Butch Coolidge, and the third story has Vincent’s partner Jules Winnfield in the lead. Each story focuses on a different series of incidents but they are all connected together through Marcellus.

There are seven narrative sequences in Pulp Fiction. The three primary storylines are preceded by identifying intertitles on a black screen.

  1. The film starts in a diner together with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny. They decide to rob it after realizing they could make money off not just the business but the customers as well.
  2. The next narrative sequence is prelude to Vincent Vega and Marcellus Wallace’s wife, Mia. Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega drives in a car to collect a briefcase belonging to their boss Marcellus Wallace. The audience is told how Marcellus has asked Vincent to escort his wife while he’s out of town. Than the screen goes black.
  3. Vincent drops by the house of Lance and Jody to buy some heroin. He than drives over to meet Mrs. Mia Wallace and takes her out. When dropping Mia off at home she finds his stash of heroin in his coat pocket. She mistakes it for cocaine and takes an overdose. Together with Lance Vincent manages to save her life by administer an adrenaline shot to her heart.
    1. The next narrative sequence is a prelude to the gold watch where we get a scene viewing a flashback to Butch’s childhood. We meet Butch as a child when he gets a visit of Vietnam veteran Captain Koons. Koons has brought a gold watch from his dead father whose dying request was that Koons deliver the watch to Butch.
    2. Then a bell rings and we are in the present. It is time for the fight he has been paid to loose. Butch flees the arena when winning and get away in a taxi driven by Esmerelda. He gets dropped of at a motel where his girlfriend, Fabienne, is lying low. Butch discovers that she has forgotten to pack the golden watch and returns to his apartment to retrieve it. At the apartment he notices a machine gun and manages to kill Vincent with it.
  5. Butch drives away but while waiting at a traffic light, Marcellus walks by. When recognized Butch drives Marcellus with the car but were not able to escape. The two men have a foot chase and in a shop. The shopowner captures them both and call for policeman Zed. They take Marcellus to another room to rape him. Butch breaks loose and saves Marcellus and he is left of the hook. He comes from it with his life and may never return to LA.  
  6. The next narrative sequence is “The Bonnie Situation” where Vincent manages to shoot Bonnie in the head while driving in the car. They therefore stop by Jimmy’s house in need for shelter. This is when Winston Wolf comes in the picture. With his help they are able to clean up the mess before Jimmy’s wife returns home.  
  7. The last narrative sequence is in the diner where Jules is in the lead. Here he manages to go away from the robbery of Pumpkin and Honey Bonny with all his belongings except 1500 dollars.  

The different narrative sequences are mixed together in a controversial order. Chronological the seven sequences would be in this order: 4a (flashback gold watch), 2 (Vincent and Jules in the car), 6 (Bonnie situation), 1 (the diner with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny), 7 (the diner with Jules and Vincent), 3 (Vincent and Mia), 4b (Butch fleeing the arena), 5 (Butch killing Vincent and saving Marcellus).

The non-linear narrative makes it difficult for the audience to identify the characters with Propps theory about the eight characters. These are: the hero, the villain, the donor, the dispatcher (who sends the hero on his way), the false hero, the helper, the princess and her father (the man who rewards the hero). In Pulp Fiction Butch is the hero. He saves Marcellus from being raped further and do only kill people to save his own life. The villain in the story is Marcellus. He was the fountain for all the characters misshapenness. Whiteout him they would never have met and ended up in the mess they did. The princess was clearly Mia. She was the one needed saving and to be taken care of. Jimmy was the donor since he opened his house even though he may have been caught by his wife. This was how Winston Wolf came into the picture. He was the helper who got Jimmyy, Vincent and Jules out off the big mess they where in. The story also has a dispatcher. The dispatcher in Pulp Fiction was Butch’s girlfriend, Fabienne. She is the one who sends him away to get the watch after she forgot it. He risked his life because of her mistake. The false hero was Vincent. He seemed like the hero because of the way he saved Mia’s life. Vincent killed on command in matters that did not influence him and without him Mia would never had taken the drug. The father in the film is Wallace. He is the one who rewards the hero Butch after saving his life.

Pulp Fiction is one of the most successful movies containing a non-linear narrative. Its controversial ways made it famous and Quentin Tarantino’s film became a big influence in the growth of non-linear movies. The controversial way of telling the plot compels to the audience and challenges them to make cause-and-effect connections between the scenes. Pulp Fiction has three interrelated storylines and seven narrative sequences which in chronological order would go: 4a, 2, 6, 1, 7, 3, 4b and 5. The different narrative sequences are mixed together in this controversial order to create drama. This way of presenting the events make the film interesting and exciting and by looking at the feedback and the way this movie has become a classic one it is clear that Quentin Tarantino’s non-linear structure was more than successful.


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