• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    The HKIA brings Hong… on [788] Island and Peninsula 島與半…
    Adamos on The Master and Margarita:…
    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,083,146 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,710 other followers

The Master, Novel Within Novel

The Master and Margarita Series 2
As I have expected (because I asked the same question myself in my first couple readings of the book), a couple important questions come to my students’ mind when reading the novel. Why is the novel called The Master and Margarita when those two characters arrive very late in the narrative? What’s the purpose of Woland (the Devil) in Moscow, and what does this have to do with Pontius Pilate? Obviously the change of style from the opening chapter to the second chapter, about Pontius Pilate, is a subtle hint that the narrator is unreliable and it might be a completely narrator altogether. The entry of the Master in Chapter 13 confirms this hypothesis. The Master realizes that Pontius Pilate is the reason why he and Ivan are in the mental asylum. The Master is barely characterized, his attitude to himself is sadly ironic, and his novel (about Pontius Pilate) is the only remarkable thing about him. It is the justification of his existence, and more importantly, the justification that Pontius chapter is part of the Moscow narrative (Part I) of the novel. After this crucial entry, the Pilate “novel” is revealed in many different ways and through different consciousness, as if it were an ur-text waiting to be discovered; but it is clearly the Master’s work, and meant to be understood as such, no matter how it is presented. That said, we have to understand that Jesus here is not that Jesus, just as this Woland is not that Satan. Even though Bulgakov sprinkles parodistic echoes from the gospels (crow of the rooster, the flood, etc), the Pilate chapters are not messianic or mythic at all. The reader’s consciousness must provide the coherence between widely spaced sections (of the biblical innuendos and Pontius novel), remembering details, and, most of all, wanting to know how this story will develop.

5 Responses

  1. Should I be hiding my head in shame because I’ve never heard of this book (or author)? Regardless, it sounds fantastic – I will be adding this one to my wishlist. Thanks!

  2. The way how the outer narrative, that on Moscow, converges with the Master’s Pilate novel is seamless. I think Margarita is key in making that connection. Also I notice parallel descriptions of physical landscapes, the lighting of the sun between the two narratives. It’s very sophisticated.

  3. Lesley:
    I’m glad you have added it on your list. Hope you’ll enjoy the book. Unlike Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, or Chekov, Bulgakov is not very known outside of his country. None of his works were (allowed to) published during his lifetime. But all of the Russians, even the ones I meet here in San Francisco, know Bulgakov and they have all read The Master and Margarita. 🙂

  4. John:
    Very good John! The landscapes, the lighting, and time of the day are definitely important. They are parallel in the “inner” and “outer” narratives. See what seems to make little or no sense at the beginning eventually converges. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: