Mikhail Bulgakov : the theme of evil in 'Master I Margarita'
Mikhail Bulgakov's preoccupation with evil in Master i Margarita
is set against the background of spiritual barrenness which is outlined
in the essays of Vekhi (1909) as dominating Russian radical thought at
the beginning of the 20th century. The themes of loss of spirituality,
utilitarian faith or atheism, man-godhood, split personality, lack of
faith in people and ethical inaptitude, as depicted in Vekhi, re-emerge
in Bulgakov's novel more than two decades after the publication of the
The devil's genealogy is examined in relation to the sources which
Bulgakov is known to have used while writing the novel. The study of
the devil's role reveals that, in the case of the conformist
characters, Woland appears as a manifestation of the irrational and
metaphysical aspects of existence while, in the case of the ordinary
Moscow citizens, he advocates a more common sense, rational attitude
to life than that which relies on magic and witchcraft.
The writer's dilemma in a philistine, authoritarian society is
examined through the phenomenon of split personality (Ivan Bezdomny
versus the Master).
Throughout the thesis C. G. Jung's ideas are employed to illustrate
how Bulgakov shapes the myth which gives meaning to the life of a writer
whose work might never be published. The Pontius Pilate story is shown
to contain the philosophical kernel of the novel; in accordance with
Jungian ideology moral absolutes are conceived by Bulgakov, not as
opposites, but as part of a paradoxical whole. The joint immortality
of Pontius Pilate and Jeshua serves as a most explicit metaphor of this
view which is echoed in Woland's question: what would happen to good
if there were no evil?Yet, as a whole Master i Margarita must be seen to demonstrate
that there may be justification, but there is no consolation, for a
person who turns away from truth.