The Master and Margarita Book summary

Mikhail Bulgakov




The Master and Margarita is a landmark novel known for its powerful criticism of literary censorship and its exploration of objective reality. Mikhail Bulgakov skillfully weaves a satirical narrative that delves into the suppression of artistic expression under Stalinist rule. The novel is inspired by Bulgakov's own experiences with censorship and the challenges he faced in getting his works published. Through the character of the Master, whose novel about Pontius Pilate faces persecution and destruction, Bulgakov highlights the struggles of artists and writers under repressive regimes. The novel's depiction of the literary elite and their fear of criticism and exposure adds depth to its portrayal of the corrosive effects of censorship on creativity and intellectual freedom. The novel uses elements of fantasy and the supernatural to create a parallel world where the Devil himself challenges and exposes the flaws of Soviet society. Professor Woland and his entourage serve as symbols of artistic freedom and defiance against oppression, making them intriguing embodiments of the author's struggle against censorship.


Plot Summary


"The Master and Margarita" is a captivating and multi-layered novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. The story is set in 1930s Moscow, where the devil, disguised as the mysterious Professor Woland, arrives with his eccentric entourage to create chaos and challenge the moral and ideological norms of Soviet society. Amidst this turmoil, the novel weaves two primary storylines—the tragic love affair between the Master and Margarita and Woland's interactions with various characters, exposing their flaws and weaknesses. The Master is a tormented writer who has penned a novel about Pontius Pilate, the Procurator of Judaea who sentences Jesus Christ to be crucified and explores the complexities of good and evil. His literary work becomes a focal point of scrutiny and suppression by the authorities, leading to his despair and eventual seclusion. In a moment of vulnerability, the Master burns his manuscript and renounces his creativity.

Margarita, the Master's lover, is a strong and devoted woman. Frustrated with her mundane life and longing for the Master's happiness, she becomes entangled with Woland and his entourage. Woland offers her the opportunity to become a witch and embark on a surreal journey through Moscow, leading her to act as a hostess for the devil’s lavish and supernatural ball attended by both the living and the dead. Meanwhile, Woland and his companions, including the mischievous black cat Behemoth and the ominous Azazello, expose the hypocrisy and moral decay of the literary elite and the bureaucratic class. They play pranks on prominent literary critics and the powerful, leaving a trail of confusion and fear in their wake.

As the novel progresses, the narrative shifts between the contemporary Moscow scenes and a parallel storyline set during the time of Pontius Pilate. The latter storyline explores the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ and connects the events of the past with the themes of the present by exploring the perversion that accompanies inefficient bureaucracy. The Devil stages a grand and surreal show in a Moscow theater, revealing the truth behind the events and characters' interactions. Woland's supernatural powers and the dramatic revelations leave the audience in awe, questioning the nature of reality, good, and evil. The ensuing chaos leaves the bureaucrats in the city in a mess as they struggle to make sense of the events that took place during the magic show and apprehend the offending parties.

In the end, Margarita's selflessness and love prove powerful forces, leading to her and the Master's redemption. They emerge from the chaos and uncertainty, finding peace and happiness in each other's arms. Woland and his entourage eventually depart, leaving a lasting impact on the characters they encountered and challenging the moral foundations of the society they visited.

  • Author(s)

    Mikhail Bulgakov
  • Publication date


  • Language


  • Classification


  • Pages



Magical Realism, Fantasy


YMCA Press