The Master and Margarita was written by Mikhail Bulgakov. He wrote this novel in the Soviet Union when it was under Stalin’s dictatorship.
Many of Mikhail’s works were written in this time period and this heavily influenced his writing. His novels can be characterized by the use of satire in his novels; such as Heart of a Dog.The Master and Margarita is a mysticism, satirical romance novel that has 3 interconnected stories within. The story is based on Soviet Union life when Stalin in control, however Mikhail takes his experience and turns it into a fantasy, satire which mocks and humours his experience and Stalin’s regime while delivering the themes of love, social control, and censorship in the novel. There are two different time era’s present in the novel; the first plot takes place in Moscow during the 1920′ to 30 where Woland, a professor disguised as Satan, comes to town and terrorizes the lives of the citizens living there. The second plot also takes place in Moscow and this is the compassionate love story of The Master and Margarita.
The third plot takes place in ancient Jerusalem which is about the crucifixion of Yeshua Ha- Nozri also known as Jesus the Nazarene. While the three different plots going on in the novel may be distinct they all contribute delivering the themes in the novel that Mikhail was trying to portray on many different levels.Passage: This is a conversation going on between Professor Woland, and an editor and a poet. “And what is your particular field of work?’ asked Berlioz.” I specialize in black magic””Like hell you do!…
” thought Mikhail Alexandrovich.”And …you’ve been invited here to give advice in that?” he asked with a gulp,”yes .” the professor assured him, and went on: “Apparently your National Library has unearthed some original manuscripts of the ninth-century necromancer Herbert Aurilachs. I have been asked to decipher them. I am the only specialist in the world.
“”Aha! So you’re a historian?” asked Berlioz in a tone of considerable relief and respect.”Yes I am a historian,” adding with apparently complete inconsequence, “this evening a historic event is going to take place here at Patriarch’s Ponds.”Again the editor and poet showed signs of utter amazement, but the professor beckoned to them and when both had bent their heads towards him he whispered:” Jesus did exist , you know.
“”Look professor,” said Berlioz, with a forced smile, “with all respect to you as a scholar we take a different attitude on that point.””It’s not a question of having an attitude,” replied the strange professor, “he existed, that’s all there is to it.””But one must have some proof…” began Berlioz. ” There’s no need for any proof, ” answered the professor. In a low voice, his foreign accent vanishing altogether, he began: ‘It’s very simple–early in the morning on the fourteenth of the spring month of Nisan the Procurator of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, in a white cloak lined with blood-red…
(29) And Professor Woland proceeds to tell the story of Yeshua and Pilate as it is set in Jerusalem in the second chapter. This passage is significant as it shows one of the many ways that Mikhail interconnects the different stories and their levels of reality. This form of writing is utilized by Mikhail to demonstrate the theme of social control. He transitions from one of the levels which is set in Moscow to the other, which is the one set in Jerusalem. As soon as Woland enters Moscow, which a very anti-religious society he already begins to change the perspectives of the people as seen with the editor and poet.
He enforces the idea that Jesus really did exist and it’s ironic that the editor and poet disagree considering the fact that they are talking to Satan himself. By using multiple stories, Mikhail delivers the themes in different perspectives. The story set in Moscow when Woland comes to town, is the most obvious example that demonstrates the effect Stalin had when he is control of the Soviet Union. The era set in Jerusalem has more of an indirect perspective of the cruel and terrorizing acts of Stalin which allows Mikhail to carry the themes of social control with much more ambiguity and interpretation. And the love story of The Master and Margarita portrays the themes of love, freedom, and humanity as during the dark times of the Soviet Union there was still some hope left in finding some happiness and this plot balances out the other two story lines.
The time period during the Soviet Union was very complicated and intricate which is why having the three interconnected stories perfectly conveys the experience that not only Mikhail faced but many others did as well.Media Creation:The Master and Margarita is a very visual and illustrative novel. Woland: Here we have Woland, who is Satan and uses the disguise as a professor to come to Moscow. What do you notice about Woland’s eyes? They are two different colours.
He is described in the novel as having a right black eye and a green left eye. He has a very contradictory personality that is represented through his appearance. You can also see that one of his eyebrows are raised and the other one is not. Woland is a very intricate character as he is devious and cunning but also very generous and noble. Therefore he is seen as the two contradictory sides of communism in the Soviet Union. In the novel, Woland hosts a ball and brings out the evil in people and punishes them for their evil desires, which is ironic considering he is the devil. However he forgives most of the citizens demonstrating as this demonstrates his two personalities.
Woland is not entirely evil as seen with Margarita. Margarita sells her soul to Woland, as he is the devil, in order to become a witch so she can be with her beloved; The Master. The love story between The Master and Margarita demonstrates humanity and hope through Margarita and her supernatural powers, and that the evil and chaos caused by Woland can be defeated by the power of love and purity. Again, being the ironic character he is, at the end of the novel Woland offers The Master and Margarita to return to a normal and happy life that they always wanted; “o thrice romantic master, wouldn’t you like to stroll under the cherry blossom with your love in the daytime and listen to Schubert in the evening? Won’t you enjoy writing by candlelight with a goose quill? Don’t you want, like Faust, to sit over a retort in the hope of fashioning a new homunculus? That’s where you must go- where a house and an old servant are already waiting for you and the candles are lit- although they are soon to be put out because you will arrive at dawn. That is your way, master, that way! Farewell– I must go!” (Bulgakov. 198).
Despite being the Devil, who obviously deemed as pure evil Woland is generously giving a new life to The Master and Margarita which opposes his “evil” qualities that are generally associated with him.The Master: Here we have The Master who is a writer in the novel, he was inspired by the author himself. The Master writes a book on Pontius Pilate, which is also one of the storylines told by Woland. In the anti-religious society that is Moscow, the book obviously gets rejected and The Master voluntarily goes to a psychiatric hospital because he believes that he is sick. Mikhail uses The Master to portray censorship in the novel.
Because of his novel regarding the crucifixion of Yeshua, it opposes the atheist mindset of the editors in Moscow which makes the novel receive condemnatory comments from critics. This led The Master to believe that he was in the wrong and tries to disappear by going the mental institution. This has a direct parallel to Mikhail’s life as he wrote this book during Stalin’s regime.
He couldn’t publish it during the time or else he would have faced severe consequences due to Stalin’s dictatorship, not to mention the fact that when it was published there was a censored version that had to be released. Stalin used tactics such as fear, propaganda and censorship to manipulate the minds of his citizens to ensure they followed his beliefs and views of communism. One of his beliefs were atheism which he also enforced among the public. This is ironic because in the novel, Moscow is deemed to be a very atheist society until Woland comes and tell the story about Yeshua and Pilates, as Stalin had did.Margarita: As you can see, Margarita is at the very top as she is naked and riding on a broomstick, because she is a witch. She is a symbolization of good and light in this novel. The only thing she desires is to be with The Master and she achieves this through Woland.
She feels happy and free by becoming a witch and being able to fly through the air and being completely invisible, hence why she is naked. Margarita is a morally virtuous character; this is seen when Woland gives her a favour and she chooses to forgive Frieda, a woman who had killed her own baby due to the fact she wouldn’t be able to provide for him, she is being haunted by a handkerchief which is what she used to kill the baby; Margarita feels sympathy towards Frieda and chooses to forgive her. In this society that is full of despair and constant greed ,Margarita is able to find happiness and freedom which Mikhail uses to contradict the sinful society that is Moscow. Crucifixion of Yeshua: Here with have the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and in The Master and Margarita the story of Yeshua is based on Jesus of Nazareth. This is the “novel within a novel” in The Master and Margarita, and it may seem different or have no connection to the other stories or the Soviet Union life that Mikhail was trying to portray. This is because Mikhail used this level to indirectly satirize Stalin’s regime. During the time period that the novel was written in, it was forbidden to criticize Stalin or anything about him so Mikhail uses the story of Yeshua to mask his criticisms. It could be said that Mikhail was trying to deliver the message that the atheist based society that was due to Stalin’s regime had no understanding of god or the the morals it implied, and they were inevitably going to collapse and deteriorate.
Conclusion/ Critical Review: Macbeth written by Shakespeare and The Master and Margarita written by Mikhail Bulgakov both share a parallel in which both authors use satire to portray themes and messages in their writing. Mikhail and Shakespeare are able to take personal experiences and incorporate them into their writing in satirical way. Macbeth was based on King James I who was ruling England during the time. Shakespeare takes the regime of King James and turns it into a satire in a sense, by using elements such as witches, ghosts and the supernatural to build-on the theme of satire.
Similarly Mikhail achieves his message of criticizing the Soviet Union through his novel by the use of satire which is much more apparent in The Master and Margarita than Macbeth. Which is why I personally found this book to be very engaging and intricate as seen with Mikhail’s use of a “story within a story” aspect as this gives the reader multiple perspectives on the three levels of reality presented in the novel. They are also open to interpretation and ambiguity as portrayed with the biblical story of Yeshua and Pilate. Mikhail also touches upon moral ideas throughout the play, as Woland says “What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it? After all, shadows are cast by objects and people.
There is the shadow of my sword. But there are also shadows of trees and living creatures” (368.) Here Woland is stating that evil is only considered sinful because there is good in the world to oppose it. Also that everything and everyone contains some form of wickedness as objects and humans all cast shadows. This is ironic coming from Woland considering that he is the devil, but telling others that they aren’t saints eithers.
The Master and Margarita depicts various emotions throughout the novel such as humour, excitement, fear, and intrigument due to the interesting and variety characters Mikhail has used. “Really, I would pawn my soul to the devil to find out whether he is alive or dead.” (235). Margarita says this as she ponders about her lover, The Master when Azazello; a member from Woland’s gang shows up to free her from her wondering and assuring her that her beloved is alive. This is where she receives the cream that turns her into a witch; this is a crucial moment for Margarita as she is finally free and at a state of happiness after experiencing a complete and utter miserable life.
Ironically, she does end up selling her soul to the devil which helps her in reuniting with The Master where they both find peace and happiness with one another. This triumph of a moment personally was my favourite part as the two long lost lovers had finally reunited with the help of an unsuspected character; the Devil. Overall The Master and Margarita is a very intriguing read and I personally would encourage everyone to read it.