LITERATURE: The Master and Margarita – The Soul of a Country

Without a complete understanding Bulgakov’s Russia, I still get the feeling that as Margarita and the Master ride away from Moscow with the devil, each represents a part of the Russian people.  The rebellion of Margarita–who tired of putting on a false face of proper social order and followed instead her passion, willing to pay the price–although I do find her a bit self-centered and uncaring.  The Master goes insane in his striving for the truth, his belief in it, and its repression by the powers of politics.  He gives in reluctantly, as if accepting his fate as part of Margarita’s deal with the devil and as all he can hope for in his failure to make others see the truth.

Night began covering the forests and meadows with its black kerchief. The night ignited sad little lights somewhere far below, alien lights that were no longer of any interest or use either to Margarita or the Master.  Night overtook the cavalcade, spreading over them from above and scattering white specks of stars here and there in the saddened sky.  (p. 321)

Bulgakov seems to make the evil a feminine thing, though Woland as Satan is male (the controlling figure; woman’s nature overturned being the necessary element).  The "black kerchief" is a woman’s accessory, a scarf to cover her hair (although of course it could be a man’s handkerchief as well), and I see it as the need to cover the head of Mother Russia, as if in disguise perhaps, or to cover its beauty.  Remembering here that Bulgakov leaves his women naked and yet without honest sensuality, and that the theme of marital betrayal runs through the stories. As Azazello comes for them in their basement apartment, the Master reminds Margarita to cover her nakedness with the cloak, her only bit of clothing, before she answers the door:

"I don’t give a damn about that," replied Margarita, already out in the little hallway. (p. 311)

Margarita then, has clearly given up the sham of respectability.  But she does apologize to Azazello:

And then Azazello was bowing and greeting the Master, his walleye beaming at him, and Margarita exclaimed, "Oh, how happy I am!  I’ve never been so happy in my life! But please excuse my nakedness Azazello!" 

Azazello told her not to worry, assuring her that he had seen not only naked women, but women who had been completely skinned…" (p. 311)

Certainly an odd way of putting it.  I would think that Azazello is referring to the humaness stripped from the soul, the soul itself being the essence of life and being open to evil, willing to make pacts with Satan.

Why, I wonder, have these two been turned over to the darkness, as if their failure to overcome anything but their own desire is simply not enough for redemption.

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