Saturday, March 5, 2011

"That's How You're Gonna Beat 'em, Butch. They Keep Understimatin' Ya.": Pulp Fiction Analysis Part XV

Butch has to go back to his apartment where it is very likely he will run into Marsellus’s men waiting to kill him. Why does Butch risk his life for the watch? Because he recognizes that the last three generations of men in his family made certain that the watch survived the war. Butch is part of the first generation of men in the 20th century that was not defined by a major war. Butch has a war with Marsellus, though, and it will become so much more gruesome than he ever thought imaginable.

He arrives at and enters his apartment with great caution and, finding no one inside, he relaxes and starts to make some breakfast. Then we see him stop and stare down at the counter, looking somewhat perplexed. Cut to a machine gun sitting out in the open. Who does it belong to? Butch picks up the weapon and then the toilet flushes. He turns toward the bathroom and waits. We see Vincent exit the bathroom and stop dead in his tracks. Not a word is spoken between the two men. Remember these two men met earlier and had an instant dislike for one another. There is only a stand-off until the toaster pops and Butch opens fire, killing Vincent instantly. Butch looks down at the gun, seeming to pause to ponder how he feels about what’s just happened. He isn’t really certain he’s actually just killed a man. Now he can answer Esmarelda’s question, “What does it feel like to kill a man?” This prepares Butch for later, when he will have to go down into the S&M dungeon to kill Maynard and Zed.

Butch notices something odd on the kitchen counter.

It's the automatic weapon that belongs to Marsellus. But where is he?

Butch is surprised to see Vincent, whom he already had a small altercation with earlier.

Now Butch knows what it feels like to kill a man.

The death of Vincent takes the audience by complete surprise. John Travolta was the star of the film and also more or less the hero until just recently. Now Tarantino has eliminated him from the story without any sentiment. He was shot, he is dead. I remember the first time I saw the film thinking it couldn’t possibly be true. In a sense, Vincent will come back from the dead by the end of the film.

It was quite shocking to audiences to see the star of the film killed halfway through.
Many people wonder why Vincent was alone in Butch’s apartment, why he left his gun sitting out, why he thought nothing of the noise Butch was making in the kitchen. The answer to these questions comes up in the next scene when Butch comes across Marsellus in the street. Notice Marsellus carrying two cups of coffee. He was on stakeout with Vincent in the apartment because by this point in the story Jules has quit the criminal life. It was Marsellus’s gun on the counter and Vincent thought the noise in the kitchen was Marsellus returning with breakfast.

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