Master and Margarita in Mikhail Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

Critic Donald B. Pruitt uses "cold hard fact" from the narrative involving Christ's trial to set those chapters aside from the chapters that are fantasy. Pruitt sees the success that Bulgakov has accomplished by editing St. John's version of Pilate and Christ's discussion, and in truth Bulgakov's version is read-made for creative realism.

In the Gospel According to John, Pilate says to Christ: "Do you not know that I have the power to release you and power to crucify you?" (Pruitt, 1981, p. 2). Christ answered: "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above…" (p. 2). In Bulgakov's version, Pilate says something more contemporary and likely more true to what actually took place: "[Your life] is hanging by a thread: know that." Christ answered cryptically: "You don't think, do you, hegemon, that it is you who hung it?" "If you do," Christ continued, "you are quite wrong." To which Pilate replied: "I can cut that thread." And Christ's realistic reply, given his power as the Son of God: "You are wrong there, too." And thereupon Pilate asserted that "…only he who hung the thread can cut it" (Bulgakov, 36-37).

Among the questions that the author does not provide answers for, and hence leaves a sense of uncertainty trailing his novel, is the mystery raised by Margot K. Frank in Canadian-American Slavic Studies. Why is the Master denied access to Heaven? The curious lack of a solution to this question certainly gives readers and critics further interest in the book, and as mentioned earlier in this paper, part of the power of the book is that questions about why the author chose to do what he did. These questions could go on for as long as there are books to read and arguments to make in reference to the plots in those books. Frank posits that the Master is denied Heaven because in his novel within the novel he did not indicate to readers that Ieshua is indeed the Biblical Christ. So Frank believes "…this omission appears to be the Master's primary transgressions and results in denial of heaven" (Frank, 1981, p. 3).

A second possibility for the fact that the Master winds up in a "peaceable limbo" -- listening to Schubert -- rather than in Heaven could be that the author actually was more sympathetic with Woland than with Ieshua, Frank asserts on page 3. That theory has potential merit, but from this writer's standpoint, a third possibility for leaving the Master in limbo rather than sending him to Heaven with Pilate is that Bulgakov made so many last minute corrections on his book he simply blew it, or somehow just installed his own personal touches based on where his head was at the moment of truth -- when the book had to end. Frank adds that the "lack of logically structured argument" in the book, and the "artistic untidiness" are certainly to be taken into consideration in attempting to resolve plot and character confusion. "The force of the book" is so strong, Frank comments on page 3, it outweighs the confusing outcome.


A restatement of the thesis -- that the power of brilliant narrative makes believers out of skeptics; that Bulgakov's novel within the novel brings the reader next to the author; and that Bulgakov's embrace of the crucifixion story is more believable than those versions found in the New Testament -- does not solve the mystery of why the Master fails to get to heaven. But one of the thesis ideas presented is that readers don't necessarily need to or want to have all the details wrapped up neatly in a bow at the end. Whether Bulgakov intended to leave loose ends, or whether he just figured it was time to quit, matters not. The story -- and the story within the story -- is power enough.

Works Cited

Bulgakov, Mikhail. (1967). The Master and Margarita. New York: Harper & Row.

Frank, Margot K. (1981). The Mystery of the Master's Final Destination. Canadian-American

Slavic Studies. Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg. Vol. 159.

Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from Literature Resource Center.

McIntosh-Byrd, Tabitha. (2000). Overview of "The Master and Margarita." Novels for Students.

Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski and Deborah a. Stanley. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved From Literature Resource Center.

Pruitt, Donald B. (1981). St. John and Bulgakov: The Model of a Parody of Christ. Canadian-

American Slavic Studies 15(2-3)…

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