Mikhail Bulgakov’s Novel The Master And Margarita

2407 words - 10 pages

The vast interpretations and multiple meanings that lie within Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita cannot be limited or reduced to just a singular point or explanation. It would be ludicrous for one to simply classify Bulgakov’s work as just a religious, ethical, social or political tract because the enforcement of only one of these points of view would hinder the reader’s insight into the depth of the entire novel. However, it is possible to be able to grasp the many themes and meanings of The Master and Margarita by the examination of one of the novel’s central characters, this character is found in both narratives of the novel and his name is Woland or, as he is also known, the devil. Woland is the most important character in the novel because he entices the people of Moscow, whether they want to or not and whether they are conscious of it or not, to rebel against the order of which they are accustomed too and to gain a new found sense of liberation. Colin Wright, in his work Mikhail Bulgakov: Life and Interpretations, writes, “And here we find the key to the whole book for, as we have seen, it is the individual non-conformists who are Bulgakov’s heroes, those who rebel – whether against God or man” (270). It is understandable that Bulgakov, having written this work in an oppressive surrounding that limited what he could and could not write, creates a hero who is in fact a rebel and other characters that are rebellious against those who stifle artistic freedom. In Vladimir Tumanov’s essay, Diabolus ex Machina: Bulgakov’s Modernist Devil, the author writes, “In this respect the modernist qualities of Bulgakov’s novel acquire a new dimension because Master i Margarita becomes a kind of artistic devil, fulfilling the traditional diabolic role of opposing authority. This is why Woland, as a character, is the metonymic expression of the novel’s revolt” (49). In a sense, Woland is able to do what Bulgakov could not for he is able to descend upon Moscow and do and act as he pleases without any fear of censorship or authoritative consequences.
While in Moscow, Woland’s magic acts towards the liberation of love, faith, and art. Tumanov remarks on the significance of these three when he writes, “All three are intertwined in Master i Margarita, and they represent exactly that which was lacking or suppressed in the Soviet Russia of the 1930s” (56). Woland’s magic works in various ways throughout the novel; however, he never causes any real harm or damage to the Muscovites or their souls, as one would typically expect from the devil’s doings. Simon Franklin writes in his introduction to The Master and Margarita that, “In this novel about Satan there is a curiously muted sense of active evil” (14). Bulgakov’s Woland does not seem to be the devil that is portrayed in the Christian tradition but rather a being that is more interested in human behaviour. His presence in both the Moscow and Jerusalem narratives reinforces his...

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