Margarita finds herself back in Woland’s bedroom with Woland and his entourage. Behemoth pours her drink, which restores a “living warmth” through her body. Suddenly hungry, Margarita gobbles up some skewered meat.
The title of this chapter suggests the master’s retrieval from the clinic and more widely his salvation from his conviction that he is insane. The drink that Behemoth provides is unspecified by restores vitality throughout the chapter.
Margarita, feeling revived, asks whether Azazello shot Baron Meigel. He did, he replies, and boasts about his shooting skills. To show off his aim, Azazello shoots a pip of Margarita’s choosing on a seven of spades card; what’s more, the card is hidden by a pillow and Azazello fires the gun over his shoulder without looking. Behemoth tries to show his shooting skill, too, but, perhaps deliberately, kills the sleeping owl on the mantlepiece and breaks a clock.
It’s no surprise that Azazello is a great shot given Woland’s gang’s supernatural abilities. Behemoth’s “misfiring” is likely deliberate.
Margarita feels like it’s time for her to leave and is newly embarrassed by her nakedness. She fears she may have been deceived and that she will receive no reward for being the hostess. When she thinks better of asking for help in finding the master, Woland declares how impressed they all are with her behavior—that she has passed the “test”: “never ask for anything!”
The parameters of Margarita’s test seem to be whether she can behave courageously without asking for anything in return. This passage represents a momentary doubt by Margarita as to whether the devil might have deceived her. By being selfless, Margarita has passed the test; her character thus provides a counterbalance to the instances of greed and self-interest in Book One.
Woland asks Margarita to make a wish. She asks for Frieda, one of the ball guests, to be granted peace and to no longer have to carry the handkerchief that reminds her of her dead child. Frieda appears, and it is left to Margarita to say, “You are forgiven.” Frieda prostrates herself before Margarita and then vanishes.
It is not Woland’s place, as Satan, to grant mercy—but he is able to give that power to Margarita. The forgiveness of Frieda exemplifies Margarita’s courage and selflessness.
Margarita gets up to leave, but Woland insists that she demand something for herself. Without hesitation, she requests that “my beloved master be returned to me right now, this second.” With a burst of wind, the master suddenly materializes in the room, wearing his hospital clothes.
Woland’s decision to grant a second wish indicates that part of his plan is to facilitate the reunion between the master and Margarita. Coupling this with the narrator’s earlier description of their love as being “eternal” and “true” gives the reader a sense of Woland’s complex nature.
Margarita flings herself at the master, kissing his face tearfully. The master is extremely disorientated, believing that he is hallucinating. She tells him not to be afraid: “I’m with you.” Koroviev gives the master a drink, which Margarita implores him to gulp down immediately. The drink brings the master back to his senses, and after a second glass “his eyes became alive and intelligent.”
This is the reunion of the master and Margarita. His belief that he may be mad prevents him from recognizing the reality of the situation, with Margarita’s affirmation of their existence helping him to orient himself in his new surroundings. The mysterious drink restores the master’s vitality, as it did Margarita’s.
Woland converses with the master, who says he has come “from the house of sorrows” and that he is “mentally ill.” Margarita begs Woland to “cure” the master. The master explains to Woland that his fellow patient at the clinic, Ivan Homeless, told him about their meeting at Patriarch’s Ponds.
This chapter represents the point at which the three distinct narratives—the Moscow visit, Pontius Pilate, and the lovers—start to merge.
When Woland asks why Margarita calls him “the master,” the master tells Woland about his Pontius Pilate novel. Woland bursts into laughter, asking to see the novel. The master explains that he burned the novel in his stove long ago. Woland objects that this is impossible, stating that “manuscripts don’t burn.” On Woland’s request, Behemoth holds up the master’s novel, which it appears he has been sitting on.
Woland is being slightly disingenuous, because Azazello’s quoting of the master’s novel in chapter 19 shows that he and his entourage are already aware of it. The “manuscripts don’t burn” quote is key, Bulgakov’s way of saying that authentic art always survives. The quote itself became an oft-quoted line when the book was published, proving Bulgakov’s point that, despite the obstacles, his art lives on. Many Soviet writers memorized their work to avoid detection by the authorities; indeed, Bulgakov is said to have known this novel by heart.
Margarita rushes to Woland, calling him “all-powerful!” The master clutches the novel, lapsing into “anxiety and uneasiness.” Koroviev gives him another drink, which seems to steady his nerves. Woland asks Margarita to tell him “everything you need.”
Woland’s power here is clearly being used with a benevolent aim, underlying the fact that he can’t be considered as a simply evil figure.
Margarita requests that she and the master be returned to “the basement in the lane off the Arbat, and that the lamp be burning, and that everything be as it was.” The master laughs, telling Woland that someone else has been living there for a long time.
Margarita wants life to go back to how it was before, when she and the master were happy. She does not need material fulfilment, happy with a humble existence as long it’s with the master.
Azazello makes Aloisy Mogarych, the current occupier of the master and Margarita’s old flat, suddenly appear. Azazello accuses Aloisy, who is in his underwear and clutching a briefcase, of deliberately defaming the master so that he could take his apartment. In a fit of rage, Margarita scratches Aloisy’s tearful face; Koroviev pulls her away. Woland magically turns Aloisy upside down and sends him out of the open window.
Aloisy Mogarych’s physical appearance is an image of the terror of Stalin, his suitcase at the ready with the necessary papers in case of a visit from the secret police. Aloisy is guilty of greed, having manipulated his way into the master’s apartment.
The master worries that the hospital staff will notice that he’s missing. Koroviev, suddenly in possession of his hospital records, throws them in the fire. He also holds the house register for the master’s apartment and, blowing on it, erases Aloisy from its records. When the master observes that “if there are no papers, there’s no person,” Koroviev agrees, and grants the master his own papers and the savings that Margarita has been looking after.
Koroviev uses his powers to destroy the symbolic representation of the master’s “insanity,” contributing to his overall salvation by then restoring the master’s identity papers. The master and Koroviev’s discussion echoes the one Koroviev had with Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy in chapter 9 regarding the thin line between “official” and “unofficial” persons.
Woland asks Margarita what she would like to do with Natasha. Natasha comes in and begs to remain a witch; Woland grants her requests and she flies out of the window. Then Nikolai Ivanovich appears, returned to human form. Woland dismisses him “with special pleasure,” after Behemoth and Hella type an “official document” certifying that Nikolai spent the night at Satan’s ball.
Margarita still has a degree of authority based on her service as the hostess at the Ball. Natasha’s request is, in a way, another request for mercy—which is not Woland’s area. Nikolai’s absurd request for documentation for having attended Satan’s ball is another joke at the expensive of overbearing Soviet bureaucracy.
With Nikolai gone, Varenukha appears. He requests to no longer be a vampire, which Azazello grants. Woland instructs his entourage to leave him alone with the master and Margarita. The master denounces his novel, but Woland insists that it will still bring him “surprises.” Margarita tells the master not to “talk like that,” saying she put her “whole life into this work.”
Varenukha’s appearance marks the beginning of a return to “normality” in Moscow, which gathers speed towards the end in chapter 27. It remains to be seen whether those affected by Woland’s antics have learned anything from the experience. Margarita’s comment is evidence of her courageous selflessness, highlighting the sacrifices she has made for the master and his work.
Woland gives Margarita a memento: “a small golden horseshoe studded with diamonds.” Woland wishes Margarita and the master happiness and bids them goodbye. They leave with a suitcase containing the novel. Azazello summons the car with the rook to drive them home.
The horseshoe is a symbol of luck, a reward for Margarita’s service. But the horseshoe is also traditionally associated with keeping evil away (based on the story of St. Dunstan). Perhaps then, the gift is a way of Woland telling Margarita that she no longer needs to fear evil. It’s also part of an overall presence of horse-related imagery in the novel. The symbol of the suitcase is subverted here, signaling contentment and resolution rather than paranoid bureaucracy.
Just as Margarita is about to get in to the car, she realizes that she’s lost the horseshoe. The narrator explains the loss by recounting events that have happened just moments before. These revolve around Annushka, the woman who spilled the sunflower oil that caused Berlioz to slip under the tram.
Annushka’s reappearance is part of Bulgakov’s design to link the novel’s far-reaching parts together. This adds to a sense of fate and destiny.
It transpires that Annushka lives in the flat below the one occupied by Woland and his entourage. She watched in amazement as a series of distressed individuals fled apartment no. 50 through a broken window: Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy, Nikolai Ivanovich, and Varenukha. She then witnessed Woland leave with his entourage, alongside the master and Margarita. Annushka found the jeweled horseshoe on the floor and stole it.
This sequence represents the return to “normality” mentioned earlier. Annushka’s theft is another occurrence of the kind of selfish opportunism that has got so many Moscow citizens in trouble throughout the book.
Azazello tells Margarita and the master to wait for a moment. He finds Annushka and snatches the horseshoe back, but also gives her two hundred roubles. Azazello returns the horseshoe to Margarita. Woland and his entourage come to the car to see the master and Margarita on their way.
Annushka is a poor woman, hence Koroviev’s seemingly charitable gesture. His record when it comes to money—and its transformations—suggests it could be a trick.
The rook delivers the master and Margarita to the basement flat in the Arbat district. Everything there is the same as it was before the two lovers had parted. The master falls into a deep sleep on the sofa as Margarita, weeping, begins to read from his novel. Feeling in awe of Woland’s power, she kisses the notebooks and reads: “The darkness that came from the Mediterranean Sea covered the city hated by the procurator…”
The master and Margarita are restored to the blissful state they once knew. Margarita becomes the fourth character to channel the Pilate narrative, illustrating the novel-within-a-novel’s importance and the indestructible authenticity of the master’s art.