Focus on how narrative and genre features create meaning and generate response in the opening sequence of 'Pulp Fiction'

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Focus on how narrative and genre features create meaning and generate response in the opening sequence of ‘Pulp Fiction’


A narrative is the story itself and generic features are elements expected to be contained within a certain category of film.

Pulp Fiction is labeled as a gangster film; however gangster films follow very precise generic elements such a death, contraband’s, violence, wealth and strong family loyalties.

Pulp Fiction doe follow the above mentioned elements but the locations of the action are unorthodox. Screen gangster activities tend to take place in sophisticated up market places as gangsters tend to be perceived as sophisticated and highly respected and feared individuals in society. This is a generic convention which is usually followed strictly; however the action in Pulp Fiction takes place in everyday places in broad daylight.

Gangster films also tend to follow the rise and fall structure, where the main character goes from rages to riches and back to rags again or ends up dead. This is a form of Aristotelian narrative. Pulp Fiction has a circular narrative; it begins and ends in the same scene, opposed to an Aristotelian narrative. However Pulp Fiction contains three smaller Aristotelian narratives within its main story.

In the opening sequence of Pulp Fiction we see two characters dressed casually.  Therefore immediately see that Pulp Fiction is subverting generic conventions and traditions because traditionally screen gangsters wear well-fitted smart suits. There is also a female gangster. This is almost unheard of except for in ‘Bonnie and Clyde’. The second of the two opening characters is an English man. This is also a subversion of conventions. Theses two characters are petty criminals and not big time gangsters. Screen gangsters are usually extremely confident before they commit their crime. However these two sit and weigh up the pro’s and con’s before they engage in the activity. The male says

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‘…. no-body ever robs restaurants’

This illustrates they are breaking conventions.

In a traditional narrative we expect to see characters that have prominent roles in the film to be in the opening sequence; also you’d expect the story contained in the opening sequence to be followed up. This is not the case in Pulp Fiction. We leave the opening scene in a moment of action. Therefore we are set up with the expectation of what happens next? In a traditional linear narrative this is a question which is likely to be answered. However in Pulp Fiction the next ...

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