The Master and Margarita A Russian satire What happens when the Devil presents himself to a Godless society?. Characters/Names.
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The Master and MargaritaA Russian satireWhat happens when the Devil presents himself to a Godless society?
Bulgakov uses names in ta variety of layered ways: to pay homage to or allude to a living or historical figure (generally an artist or person from Bulgakov’s past) or as a representation of the character, or a historical event in Russia
The confusion with names comes from the fact that people are generally addressed in two ways within the Russian culture:
1) The first and last name – formal – family or geographical region where the family comes from
2) the first and middle name (father’s name – vich is “son of”)
Ivan Nikalaevich Ponyryov – Ivan (the fool) “son of” Nikalae Ponyryov – also known as Bezdomny - his pen name meaning “homeless” – obvious textual significance
Mikhail Alexandrovich Belioz – the maestro (Hector Belioz – composer commissioned for State Operas – La Damnation de Faust - represents the cross over of politics and art corruption within Russia and by extension the housing shortage corruption
Styopa Likhodeyev – director of the variety theatre –”evildoer” – again the corruption of the arts is illustrated here through his actions
Annushka – Anna/Channah – Old testament. New testament – prophetess that recognized Jesus as the messiah
Twenty slides and a course could be taught on Bulgakov’s use of names
Ode to Faust
Throughout this text, Bulgakov pays homage to Goethe’s Faust throughout.
Woland is the German Valand – Mephistopheles in Faust
Margarete is the Russian form of Gretchen
The poodle imagery at the ball – Mephistopheles appears as a poodle in Faust
Schubert’s music which is prominent in the text put music to a section of Faust “Lieder” and Belioz “Grand Opera” wrote the opera La damnation de Faust
Through Schubert and Belioz, Bulgakov is commenting on the different forms of artistic expression in Moscow under political restriction.
Belioz represents the contrived “Grand” spectacle of the arts that were controlled pieces of propaganda and Schubert’s Lieder (song) represents the informal and romantic or pure side of the arts – often performed in one’s
www.emiclassics.com/releasetracklisting.php?rid=44574 Belioz – La Damnation de Faust
www.listeningarts.com/music/art_song/oxy116/gretchen.htm Schubert – Gretchen am Spinnrade
Bulgakov’s multi-layered symbolic application of Grand Opera and Lieder in the novel mirrors the harmonic structure of “sonata form,” a principle classical music form used by almost every major composer. In sonata form, the piece of music is organized into three sections: the exposition, the development, and the recapitulation. In the exposition, two harmonic “theme groups” are presented in conflict; that is, they are in different keys (the two stories – Master and Pilate/Russia and Judea). However, once the piece reaches the recapitulation, these same “theme groups” are restated, only now in harmony, or in the same key (the Epilogue). Taking into account the significance of the moon as a symbol, The Master and Margarita is Bulgakov’s literary “Moonlight Sonata.”
The text essentially has its own musical score – it is a homage to composers but also the story itself is composed as an opera on the stage orchestrated by Satan himself
Bulgakov’s Style - Satire
“A menippean satire - In The Master and Margarita Bulgakov practises the so-called menippean satire. This kind of satire turns the world completely around. Authorities are interchanged, fabrications become true, the social order is mixed up. The motives are grotesque and blusterous. The menippean satire laughs about the socially legitimated cultural expressions and connects them to the absurd and the abnormal. It's a parody of the established power, which doesn't mean by definition that it casts off authorities or the official truth. The characters in the satire experience very different and extreme psychological situations. It varies from insanity, schizophrenia and interchange of identities to unrestrained daydreams and an excessive wish for scandals and eccentricity. The satire questions the dominant cultural order. It is expressed by wiping the floor with the morality, norms and etiquette of the higher class. In general the official representatives of power are challenged.
This form of satire was inspired by the Greek Anatolian Menippus of Gadara (300 BC-260 BC).
Masking – a message through subtlety (Aesopian language) - Aesopian language is thus a use of words having an innocent meaning to outsiders, but which is very significant for insiders or those who are informed (not always critical)– very accessible within the Russian language due to nuance and multiple meanings.
Ex., When the Master tells to Ivan that he was "in the same coat but with the buttons torn off", the informed reader knows that he had been arrested. Because in Stalin's Soviet Union the buttons of the clothes of arrested people were torn off or “the secret police” is never mentioned. Lines like "a citizen entered and whispered something", sometimes vague general descriptions like "a certain Moscow institution“ were used instead – deniability!
This subtlety of language, dual meanings, and allusions allowed for Bulgakov to get his point across to an informed audience without having to commit himself to persecution/interrogation
Style – Narration
The narrator of the text is both an objective observer and subjective player with clear opinions: “Between us, the article was idiotic…”. It appears to be an objective omniscient narrator, at times, (questions what characters are thinking) but break forms through direct address – “But enough, you are digressing, reader! Follow me!”. This direct address adds a playful personal quality to the text, while bridging the world of realism and fiction.
The narrator also speaks specifically to the Russian reader cementing the idea that this book was one for the Russian people calling the reader “dear citizens”
There are many theories as to whom the narrator may be: Bulgakov, an unnamed entity, even Koroviev.
Imagery and Motif
The storm plays heavily into the text from Ivan’s cell to the crucifixion of Christ. This form of pathetic fallacy is symbolic of pain and the mental anguish of the characters
Leitmotif – a musical term (fitting) for a reoccurring thought/image. “O Gods” is repeated 10 times in the text by both the master, Pilate and the narrator creating a bond between the characters
Contrast – light and dark, the sun and moon, good and evil
Symbols – the needle, the moon, the sparrow(swallow) are all tied to Woland in some form
The soviet reality – the terrors, apartment exchanges, atheism, foreigners, secret police all play into the realism component of “Magic Realism” – defined as "what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.“ Again the key question of this novel.
Censorship – political and religious and the consequences of – really the bridge between the two stories
The interplay of love, loyalty, sensuality, and sacrifice – the Master and Margarita, Pontius and Banga, Nickolai Ivanovich
Courage/ Cowardice – Pontius, Margarita
Truth revealed in absurdity – the theatre – what appears absurd (money and the clothes ultimately reveals the materialistic greed of the time), Griboedovs - the new elite that was created in what should have been the classless society under Stalin
Faustian theme – selling one’s soul for materialistic possessions
App. vs Reality – black magic, religion – USSR – cover ups, the power of the word – when one stopped talking about something (denial) it ceased to exist within the Russian culture
Fate – invoking the devil – ultimately people decide their fate – although the devil is invoked in the text, Woland seems to give people a choice (even warned) and, therefore, responsibility over their fates. Woland almost appears as an agent of justice and punisher of greed and treachery.
Hope – redemption is possible for sin – even Pilate
Guilt – Pilate - death of Christ, Bulgakov – as a favorite of Stalin was at times protected while friends were punished
The role of the arts – primarily shown through the variety theater and the first chapter (poem on Christ), and the pure and romantic (Schubert) juxtaposed against the materialistic Grand Opera (Belioz), the individual and self expression against the state manufactured nationalistic spectacle
Good vs. Evil – told through satire (the mythical elements)
The Power of Words – language as a tool of oppression but also a tool of expression and by extension subversion and freedom