The Master and Margarita: A story within a story

Topics: The Master and Margarita, Pontius Pilate, Mikhail Bulgakov Pages: 8 (2295 words) Published: May 23, 2014
Lu Htet
English 1B
Professor Compean
March 22, 2014.
The Master and Margarita: A Novel Within A Novel
The Master and Margarita is written by Mikhail Bulgakov. Bulgakov is one of the most well known Russian writers of the 20th century, and he is also noted for the rejection of the principles of the officially accepted literary method. "Bulgakov considered the writer's freedom to be more important than the goals of the Soviet government and was true to himself and his ideals in creating his literary works" (Yurkchenko 2). The Master and Margarita is a proof of Bulgakov's rejection of the principles of the officially accepted literary method. In The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov vividly portrays the true life of Moscow under the Soviet regime. The novel is split into three different, yet intertwined, stories, the adventures of Professor Woland and his band who turn Moscow upside down with theatre shows of black magic and tricks on the population, the story of Pontius Pilate, and the love story of the Master and Margarita.

In the beginning of the first story, Berlioz and Ivan meet the devil on a May evening in Moscow at Patriarchs' Ponds Park. The devil in the disguise of a traveling magician known as Professor Woland tells them a story about Pontius Pilate. Berlioz dies, and Ivan chases the devil through out Moscow and ends up in a clinic where he meets another patient, a writer known as the Master who writes a novel about Pontius Pilate. Margarita, the Master's beloved, tries to save the Master from an asylum by making a bargain with the Devil. At the end of the novel the Master is finally returned to his mistress, and they go to their final refuge together. Pilate is released from his long torment. Woland and his band leave the city. The plot of the novel develops around different characters and scenes at the same time, from Wednesday until the night between Saturday and Sunday of the Holy Week.

Its elaborate structure, interdependence of events, and mystical characters and historical figures having philosophical conversations might give an impression that the novel is not pleasant to read, and the contents of the Master's novel about Pontius Pilate and the devil's story are identical and retell the story of the Gospels from a different point of view. Therefore, readers might wonder whether or how the story is related to the theme and overall meaning of The Master and Margarita. If readers carefully read the novel, they will find that through Bulgakov's blend of satire and fantasy, the story of Pontius Pilate is significantly related to the theme and overall meaning of the novel.

One of the features Bulgakov expresses in his novel is an image of Stalin, and he portrays his image through Pontius Pilate. In "Pontius Pilate and Yeshua Ha-Nozri", Lidiia Ianoskaia, a famous critic of Russian literature, identifies the sources that Bulgakov probably used for his portrayals of Pontius Pilate and Yeshua Ha-Nozri in The Master and Margarita and shows how his vision of the characters developed through the novel. She argues that Bulgakov's "attitude toward Stalin was reflected in his attitude toward Pontius Pilate", for they both have same personalities- "cruelty, the inability to temper justice with mercy, cowardice in facing the necessity of doing good, and the helplessness and dependency of power and authority" (26).She future argues that like Stalin, Pilate is "cruel by habit".

Although Pilate had an authority to release Yeshua, he gave him a death sentenced, for Yeshua had openly expressed his view concerning state authority: Yeshua said "every form of authority means coercion over men, and that a time will come when there shall be neither Ceasears, nor any other rulers"(Bulgakov 30). Expressing Pilate's madness, Bulgakov writes "Pilate's broken, sick voice rose and spread him. The Procurator looked at his secretary and the convoy with hatred" after saying that "there was not, is not, and shall never be any rule...

Cited: Bagby, Lewis. "Eternal Themes in Mikhail Bulgakov 's The Master and Margarita." The International Fiction Review 1.1 (1974): 27-31. Print.
Beylk, Kristina. "The Master and Margarita Deconstructing Social Realism." Bright Student Literary Journal 16 Nov. 2012: 3. Print.
Ianovskaia, Lidiia.”Pontius Pilate and Yeshua Ha-Nozri.” Russian Studies in Literature 47.2
(2011): 7-60. Print.
Yurchenko, Anastasia. "Bulgakov 's Novel The Master and Margarita and The Subversion of
Socialist Realism." June 2008. Print.
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