Margarita and the master are installed in their old home and feeling peaceful, but they're the only ones. Moscow authorities are in an uproar over all the outrages of the last couple of days. The theater has had to be shut down because practically the entire staff has disappeared. Police visit Berlioz' apartment...and find nothing. There is no record of Woland anywhere, so how did all this happen? It must have all been a lot of nonsense and hysteria induced by a gang, and everything is rationalized away by the authorities (who didn't meet Woland) as they find and question every victim. The only thing that puzzles them is why everyone seems to want "to be hidden in a bulletproof room with an armed guard."
Woland and company are still in the apartment, but not for long; they're packing up. Behemoth and Koroviev go on a farewell rampage in Moscow, causing mayhem everywhere they go and setting fire to a whole lot of buildings. Woland and Azazello watch from a balcony, where they're visited by Matthew Levi bearing a message, apparently from heaven. Woland is to take the master and Margarita with him and give them peace.
"But why don't you take him with you into the light?"The master and Margarita are discussing their situation--the master feels that he is a broken man, while Margarita is happy and confident in her witchiness--when Azazello arrives to take them away. He poisons them, arranges for their deaths to be visible in their proper places, and (now that they are free) takes them on a ride to Woland, stopping to visit poor Ivan Homeless and say goodbye. We say a farewell to Moscow, the demons show themselves in their true forms, and Woland shows Pontius Pilate to the master. Pilate has been stuck in a sort of limbo for two millennia, but the master sets him free to follow Ha-Nozri as he wished. Master and Margarita get their eternal home--a little house together.
"He does not deserve the light, he deserves peace," Levi said in a sorrowful voice.
An epilogue describes the aftermath for all the other characters, including Pilate. And we finish with the last line of the master's novel: the cruel fifth procurator of Judea, the equestrian Pontius Pilate.
Bulgakov certainly identified himself with the master, and evidently with Pilate too. Interesting that Pilate eventually gets to go to heaven (?), but the master "doesn't deserve the light." It's repeated many times that cowardice is the worst of all sins--Bulgakov believed it was the source of all vices, whereas orthodox Christian theology would say that pride holds that place--and the master and Pilate are both guilty of it. Bulgakov felt himself guilty of cowardice too, by cooperating with the Soviet machine The master is a shadow sort of man, broken by his unmentioned months in prison, and I suppose Bulgakov felt himself to be so as well, in his own way.
Most people in this readalong didn't like the Pilate chapters at all, and certainly they don't have the action and interest of the Moscow story, but they're clearly important to Bulgakov and the structure of his story. In some way, the Pilate book is real. Woland showed Ivan a historical vision that was also the book; Pilate has been stuck for 2000 years; Matthew Levi speaks with Woland. Did the master write reality? Did he have some sort of vision that showed him real things? Did he create them somehow through his writing? It's all very meta. And our novel ends with the words the master used for his novel. I don't know what they're supposed to mean, but the sheer repetition gives them weight and a feeling of significance.
This is my THIRD time reading this fantastic weirdo book. I hope everybody had as much fun as I did. If YOU have never read it, you should!
|Don't talk to strangers.|