The Master and the Margarita “Locomotor and speech excitation, delirious interpretations, complex case, it seems. Schizophrenia plus alcoholism, disturbed imagination and hallucinations”.
This was doctor Stravinsky’s diagnosis of Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyrov after his super natural encounters with Professor Woland. Ponyrov, also known as “Homeless” is a character of character of great interest especially on the topic of magical realism and the lunacy institutionalized belief systems in Soviet Russia as well as the modern western society, that make Ponyrov one of Bulgakov’s most interesting characters.This paper is interested in exploring the role of Ponyrov in Michael Bulgakov’s The Master and Margaritas with the focus on what kind of social representation Ponyrov was intended to represent in the novel. This paper is constructed in attempt to relate the historical relevance of phantasmagoria characters from The Master and Margeritas to its parallel narratives in 1930s Russia, showing that the character of Ponyrov is a reflection victimization of societal and institutional absurdity such as Stalin’s Great Purge during the early years of Soviet Russia.
The story of The Master and Margaritas took place in 1930s Moscow, though the story is restricted to neither the realm of reality nor this specific time period as the story blends and weaves between the story of Jesus in ancient Roman Empire and industrial Russia. The novel’s beginning holds particular importance in understanding Ponyrov (or “homeless”) as introduce the reader to two worlds, both full of censorship and political prosecution.Before the Devil’s introduction as a foreign Professor name Woland, this world seemed to follow the laws of physics, thus at the beginning of the novel it seemed to be a realist story, complying with modern communist and realist doctrines on gothic literature. The story eventually morphs two fantastic realms as Professor Woland slyly brought in several fantastic/theological elements to atheist-anti religious believers such as our character of focus, Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyrov. This no doubt created disbelief and tension between the non-believers (Berlioz and Bezdomny).
It is at this point when some of the Omni-type qualities in Bezdomny are first reveled. Bezdomny, in his reaction to seeing what happened to Berlioz and his dialog with the Devil showed us he is the character type that represents; a believer in the status quo, which at the time was the atheist outlook on the existence of Jesus Christ; a law abiding citizen and a defender of soviet beliefs. Later when he went on his unfortunate adventure to confirm what he experienced to the authorities, Bezdomny was sent to a mental institutional.It is this betrayal of a society toward an individual when the individual has done nothing wrong. Bulgakov was very conscious of the fear of political prosecution in Soviet Russia during the time he wrote The Master and Margaritas as he himself fear the implications his novel would have for him. Therefore it is very interesting to focus on the subtle hints of political advocacy rebelling against the state.
Back in the story the chaos induced by Satan disguised as Professor Rowland Satan, ominously flipped Ponyrov’s world upside down, creating horrible internally confusions in Ponyrov.Having just being confronted that his core belief in religion false and later having had to witness the horrific death of someone he knew, his reaction to all these changes are arguably the most relatable and seemingly sensible from the perspective of a rational reader. Yet, his misfortune had only began, Ponyrov was condemned insane and segregated from ‘normal’ society by the society he thought to be fair and rational. As a young poet, who before the strange events at Patriarch Pond was still a promising poet who is living a good life or a life without prosecution.It is the sudden change in the story we see not only the introduction of magic realism in the novel but it also shows the drastic change of reality for many political activists, intelligentsias, and academics in Russia since the October Revolution.
That particular demography is presented in Bezdomny. Bulgakov’s excellence in this piece is his ability to avoid political prosecution for his own work and through satire and the disguise of a ‘alter reality’ to construct a realistic representation of soviet political prosecution during Stalin’s censorship and political purge.Bulgakov was not able to publish ‘The Master and Margaritas’ as he would have liked because he too was a victim of Soviet censorship. This piece was first rejected by the editorial board as it was too radical at the time and the publish version was only submitted after editing many potentially offensive parts to the Soviet Government. The theme of censorship is quite noticeable and by understanding Bulgakov’s history and his own personal relationship dealing with censorship, its evident the “master” in the story is really Bulgakov himself.The master and Bezdomny were both considered insane by their society, and the standard qualification for admission in a mental institution is a reflection on the standard, which the editorial board qualify as work accepted or work rejected. Bulgakov tried to show that the two institutions, editorial board and mental institution is really both a method of censorship and political purge.
In the logical of a paranoid dictator, Stalin was be very sensitive about individuals thinking ‘outside the box’ , especially a creative and provocative writer like Bulgakov.The most provocative element in creating Bezdomny as a character is probably his interactions with the master in the mental institution they were both forced to attend. At this point in the novel, the readers should already have a firm understanding that neither Bezdomny nor the Master actually have any mental illness.
The conversations between Bezdomny and the Master over the Master novel seemed coherent and logical. As to the magical elements that made them seem crazy, Bezdomny especially was not the archetype but merely the observer of absurdities that were happening around him which made him seem crazy.It is this powerful mental experiment that Bulagkov embark the readers on so we are conditioned to resonate with Bezdomny in feeling helpless and wronged. As a reader, it was difficult not to feel trapped and powerless while reading this section, and this is in part a product of the form of narration Bulgakov uses in the novel.
The story, apart from dialogs between characters is told in through mostly an omniscient narrator, whom the readers have no knowledge of. The combination of the narration techniques Bulgakov used was able to achieve a cinematic reading experience as one follow through the four short days the story cover.