What’s the significance of the briefcase in “Pulp Fiction”?

What theories exist about the contents of the mysterious briefcase in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction"?

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The briefcase in Quentin Tarino's "Pulp Fiction" has been the subject of much speculation and is one of the most iconic enigmas in film history. Its significance is multifaceted, playing a central role both within the narrative and in sparking discussions and theories among the film's audience. In the film, the briefcase is a MacGuffin, a plot device that drives the story forward but whose specific nature is not central to the film's narrative. Its contents are never revealed, which has led to numerous theories and interpretations as to what it might contain. The fact that it glows when opened, causing characters to marvel at its unseen contents, adds to the mystery and allure. Here are some of the prevailing theories about the contents of the briefcase: 1. **Marcellus Wallace's Soul**: One of the most popular theories is that the briefcase contains the soul of Marcellus Wallace, the crime boss character. This theory is supported by the fact that the briefcase's combination is "666," often associated with the devil, and by the band-aid seen on the back of Wallace's neck, which, according to the theory, marks the place where his soul was extracted. 2. **Gold/Valuables**: A simple and straightforward theory is that the briefcase contains something of great monetary value, such as gold or diamonds, which would naturally elicit awe and greed from anyone who sees it. 3. **The MacGuffin**: Some assert that the contents are irrelevant and the briefcase is simply a pure MacGuffin intended to move the plot along while serving as a focus for character interaction and motivation. 4. **Tarantino's Connection**: Another theory is that the briefcase contains an Oscar statue, symbolizing Tarantino's own aspirations in the film industry. This self-referential interpretation adds a meta-layer to the film's storytelling. 5. **A Nuclear Device**: A less-common but interesting theory posits that the briefcase contains some form of a portable nuclear device or other weapon of significant destructive power. This is evidenced by its glowing contents and the fact that characters handle it with such caution and reverence. 6. **Royal With Cheese**: There's even a more humorous and whimsical theory that suggests the briefcase simply contains a "royal with cheese," a nod to the earlier conversation between Jules and Vincent regarding the metric system's impact on fast-food names in France. Quentin Tarantino himself has never confirmed the contents of the briefcase, and he seems to enjoy the speculation that it has generated. By not defining what is in the briefcase, Tarantino created an enduring film mystery that invites the viewer to project their own imagination onto it, thus increasing engagement with the film. Ultimately, the briefcase serves as a powerful storytelling tool, engaging audiences in a discussion that has lasted well beyond the film's release. The significance of the briefcase lies not only in its mysterious nature but also in its ability to spur creative thought and discourse, becoming a symbol of the enduring impact of skillful filmmaking and storytelling.
Answered on July 2, 2024.
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