Several reviewers have looked for a way to decipher the meaning of Bulgakov’s incomplete masterpiece ‘The Master and Margarita’ in the decades since its publication. Several others saw the book as a political roman à clef, laboriously replacing Bulgakov’s characters with real-life individuals from Stalinist Moscow. Others proposed a religious formula to explain how good and evil relate to one another throughout the text.
‘The Master and Margarita‘ serves as a testament to the importance of art in oppressive times as well as the urgent need for artists to reject cowardice and uphold their commitment to leading authentic human lives that combine fantasy and reality, history and invention, good and evil, and the shadows and depth that give life meaning and reality.
Style of Prose
Bulgakov weaves together three distinct storylines in ‘The Master and Margarita,’ which intertwine, particularly at the book’s conclusion: the frequent slapstick portrayal of life in Stalinist Moscow, seen in part through the antics of the devil Woland and his demonic helpers; the story of Pilate, with names and details, changed from the well-known Biblical versions; and the story of the Master and Margarita. Readers hoping to see character development will be let down because the action happens quickly. Instead, Bulgakov creates a lengthy allegory in which taking flight equates to being free, in which selfishness and small-mindedness are condemned, and in which exhausted artists are accorded some pity and calm.
In the middle of the stifling culture of Stalinist Russia, Bulgakov received a lifeline to the imagination with ‘The Master and Margarita.’ The book has reasonable amounts of wish fulfillment, particularly in the passages where Woland’s henchmen Azazello, Behemoth, and Koroviev exact revenge for the selfishness and greed that are ingrained in this political and social structure. Another desperate endeavor is to weave dizzying strands of enchantment, fantasy, and power into Moscow life to counter the Stalinist tendency toward flatness and monotony.
These attempts to use a story as wish fulfillment, criticize a social structure by inverting it in fiction, and understand how to use an audience’s sense of wonder as a catalyst for change are consistent with the historical and cultural functions of fairy tales as described by scholars like Jack Zipes in ‘The Great Fairy Tale Tradition’ and Marina Warner in ‘From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers.’ The reader is compelled by magic and awe to consider possibilities other than the oppressive political, material, and military realities.
Whether in the form of a wicked queen or a greedy government official, challenges to misplaced power in fairy tales can play one of two roles: either a subversive danger to authority or a release valve for the burden of living under strict restrictions. Maybe most importantly, fairy tales serve as a reminder to readers that life is miraculous and that even in the most oppressive of settings, certain liberties, like the ability to dream and imagine, can be cherished and honored.
Magical Realism in The Master and Margarita
Much like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years Of Solitude,’ ‘The Master and Margarita’s’ fusion of the fantastical and the ordinary serves as Bulgakov’s manifesto. He battled throughout his life to protect the complete human experience rather than the two-dimensional authoritarianism of the Stalinist USSR, which stripped human life of all wonder, creativity, and exuberance. Instead, he supported a foundation of wonder and imagination for human life, with all of its shades and hues. He didn’t just want to be free of communal living or oppressive government regulations. Instead, he yearned for the freedom to dream, fantasize, inject wonder into his existence, and express his vision.
This makes it incorrect to interpret ‘The Master and Margarita’ as a straightforward parody of Soviet authoritarianism. Instead, Bulgakov aimed to let his characters soar along with them, appealing to the human condition’s craving for wonder, imagination, and intellectual and spiritual freedom.
Character Development in The Master and Margarita
‘The Master and Margarita’ has received some criticism for its abrupt transitions and mood changes between its three storylines: the actions of Woland and his minions in Moscow; the transformed story of Pontius Pilate, with some striking changes to the names of characters, and the sequence of events that at the same time make the narrative seem more historical and keep readers off-balance; and the story of the Master and Margarita, which includes Bulgakov’s central concerns about human nature.
Bulgakov’s story is thought to have been intentionally written so that the reader would be transported between dimensions. Although startling, the result is one of ongoing volatility and surprise. The reader is taken into a world where a Biblical past appears to be less fantastical and more historically based than Moscow in the 20th century, where characters who are selfish and greedy receive fantastic public punishments, sometimes literally on stage, and where, in the end, characters with the most substance and loyalty have their lives transformed by magic.
Bulgakov challenges the readers to think about the points at which different universes converge by meticulously creating this complex universe with all of its seams exposed. Bulgakov exposes how individuals separate themselves from the sources of enchantment and wonder and urge his audience to join him in hopping on a flying broomstick and escaping the confines of daily life.
What characterizes Mikhail Bulgakov’s writing style in ‘The Master and Margarita’?
Satire, surrealism, and magical realism are all elements that define Mikhail Bulgakov’s writing style. He frequently incorporates absurdist themes and uses vivid, inventive vocabulary to convey a surreal or otherworldly feeling. In addition, he frequently uses political and social satire in his writing, reflecting on his personal experiences as a Soviet resident. The writing of Bulgakov is renowned for its razor-sharp wit, light humor, and deft use of irony, which he employs to challenge accepted wisdom and confound expectations. He is one of the most distinctive and enduring writers of the 20th century thanks to his overall extremely inventive, intellectually interesting, and frequently demanding writing style.
Who were the writers that influenced Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’?
The great Russian authors who came before Bulgakov, such Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Gogol, had a significant influence on him. He was in awe of their literary exploration of difficult social and philosophical issues.
What makes ‘The Master and Margarita’ unique?
Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’ is unique for its blending of genres by combining elements of satire, surrealism, magical realism, and historical fiction in a way that had never been seen before. ‘The Master and Margarita’ also explores a variety of existential and philosophical themes such as faith, love, redemption, and the human condition in a profound and thought-provoking way.
The Master and Margarita Review: An exploration of good and evil
Lasting Effect on the Reader
The Master and Margarita Review
‘The Master and Margarita’ is a satirical and fantastical novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. Set in Stalinist Russia, the novel tells the story of the devil’s visit to Moscow and the chaos that ensues. It explores themes of censorship, corruption, and oppression, as well as the nature of love, faith, and redemption.
- It is well written
- It is socially relevant
- It is a compelling story
- It is difficult to read for some
- It is sometimes too ambiguous