Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, the story of Satan on a jaunt through 1930s Moscow, offers a reformulation of various notions central to modern Christianity. Satan appears to be not as much a troublemaker as a tester of human virtue. In addition, an account is given of Pilate and Christ that is in direct conflict with the accounts of the Gospels. In light of this novel depiction of Jesus and Satan, who are historically the two extremes of the ethical continuum, what does it mean to be good or evil? In this book, Bulgakov rewards or punishes his characters in the afterlife for earthly deeds; perhaps examination of these moral action/postmortem reckoning relations in Master and Margarita will elucidate Bulgakov’s intended moral scheme. Major ethical theories, however, as proposed by some of the great minds in the history of moral philosophy, fail to shed light on the Bulgakovian value system. With this in mind, I will attempt to utilize contextual clues to delineate a new and perhaps surprising ethic for Master and Margarita, one in which Bulgakov’s Christ and Devil may find themselves strange bedfellows.
Boone Gorges, ’02 Appleton, WI
Majors: Russian, Philosophy and French
Sponsor: Lynne Ikach