(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The action of the novel takes place from Wednesday to Sunday of the Holy Week, in modern Moscow and in biblical Jerusalem. The Moscow story enables the author to satirize everyday Soviet life in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. During the black magic show, people demonstrate that they have changed little after the revolution. Greed, materialism, corruption, selfishness, and paranoia still are rampant.

Another first-level interpretation centers on the love story of the Master and Margarita. It is more than a love story, however. The lovers find happiness at the end, and their love is elevated by the nobility of Margarita’s potential sacrifice in order to help the suffering woman regain her peace. By far the most important, and most complex, interpretation of the novel concerns philosophical questions. The basic ethical question of good and evil is the focal point of the novel, with a Manichean twist of equality between good and evil.

Pilate poses another philosophical question, concerning the nature of truth, but it is directed at the rulers’ usurped monopoly on the truth and underscored by the fact that the Jerusalem story is told from three viewpoints. By painting the Devil in colors other than black, by using Jesus Christ’s ethnic name, and by changing his age and the last days of crucifixion, Bulgakov discards the customary way of thinking, thus rejecting any dogmatism, including the political one. Yet another philosophical...

(The entire section is 480 words.)