The Thing I Like About …

Pulp Fiction:  the fact that Vincent and Jules are alive at the end [spoiler alert].

Pulp Fiction is a movie based around vignettes; we watch one group of people and then another, followed by the intriguing bits where the vignettes intersect and stories come together.  Time isn’t a huge factor, and part of the coming-together moment is in figuring out the time-line of the things we’ve seen.

Vincent Vega gets killed two-thirds of the way through the movie by Butch Coolidge; he dies unceremoniously while coming out of the bathroom.  (In fact, all of the things that go wrong for Vincent in the film happen as he’s coming out of a bathroom.)  But then, just when we’ve emotionally moved on from his character and settled in to wrap up other characters’ stories, we go back to a point earlier in the day – Jules and Vincent are in the diner, discussing Jules’ retirement, and, after Vincent goes to the bathroom, thereby triggering the climactic scenes of the movie, he and Jules pick up their stuff and walk cheerfully out of the diner.  So Vincent is alive.  Again.

Humans are material creatures.  We exist in space, and we measure our lives by the linear progression of time.  But we don’t particularly like that.  We write countless stories of time travel and of mystical journeys to places outside the ordinary confines of material reality.  We write vignette-based stories that allow us to do the thing we can’t do in real life: we can stop the narrative wherever we want, and we can come away with whatever ending we choose, regardless of what’s happened “before”.

Vincent Vega comes back to life in Pulp Fiction, and walks away triumphant.  If he can do that, maybe we in the real world can at least accept that our pasts are only as definitive as we allow them to be – that at any moment we can rewrite where we’re going, no matter what’s happened – or what we’ve done – before.  All we have to do is pick up our stuff and walk out of the diner … and decide that we’re alive now.

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