At the same time that Styopa is transported to Yalta, Ivan wakes up groggily in the clinic. He presses a button beside him to call for an attendant. A female attendant enters the room and pulls up the blinds, letting in the bright sun. She tells Ivan that it’s time for a bath. After washing Ivan, the attendant gives him fresh clothes, offering a choice of pajamas or a dressing gown. Ivan choose the crimson pajamas.
Ivan is infantilized, reduced to the bare essentials of human life and mothered by the clinic staff. The bright sun can be associated both with Ivan’s knowledge of Woland’s presence in Moscow and “a new dawn” in his character, as becomes clear throughout the chapter.
The attendant takes Ivan to the examining room, where two women and a man, all wearing white coats, are waiting for him. Ivan considers his options: he could violently resist his situation; take up his account of the professor and Pontius Pilate again; or “withdraw into proud silence.” He chooses the third option.
In reality, Ivan has tried the first two options already, to no avail. His spirit is weakened by the sterile clinic environment, perhaps suggesting the way that the status quo takes hold over citizens who might otherwise strive for something better.
The clinic staff ask Ivan a series of questions about his life and give him a medical check. Ivan is then sent back to his room and eats breakfast. Just then, the lead clinician, Dr. Stravinsky, comes in with an entourage of people in white coats. Dr. Stravinsky looks over Ivan’s chart and talks to the others, mentioning “schizophrenia.”
Dr. Stravinsky is the head of the clinic and sees a lot of new patients throughout Woland’s visitation to Moscow. As is recurrent throughout, the possibility of evil is explained away as irrationality.
Dr. Stravinsky asks Ivan if he is a poet, which he gloomily confirms. Ivan protests that he isn’t mad and proceeds to re-tell what happened to him the day before, once again mentioning that the strange professor he encountered had seen Pontius Pilate in person. Ivan explains that the professor had mentioned “sunflower oil” well before Berlioz had slipped on that same substance and fallen under the tram.
Ivan is hesitant to admit to being a poet because, like Riukhin in the earlier chapter, he is coming to realize that his work is wholly inauthentic. Woland’s visit, then, is a kind of shock of reality, despite its supernatural and incredible nature. This casts doubt on whether it is fair to describe Woland—who is Satan—as evil; his character is markedly different from biblical representations.
Dr. Stravinsky has a sympathetic manner and asks Ivan to continue. The latter man goes on to talk about his attempts to chase the strange group of characters, mentioning the cat who “rides the tram all by himself.” He reiterates that the professor was “personally on Pontius Pilate’s balcony.”
At this point, Ivan is still convinced of what he has witnessed, but his general demeanor is being placated by Dr. Stravinsky’s insincere sympathies. Ivan is being subtly persuaded that it is easier to believe that he is mad than to continue to believe the truth.
Dr. Stravinsky tells Ivan that he will check him out of the clinic if Ivan states that he is “normal.” When Ivan states that he is indeed normal, the doctor says, “if so, let’s reason logically.” Dr. Stravinsky tells Ivan’s story back to him, and reasons that, if Ivan goes to the police for help in catching the professor and his entourage, he will most likely be back in the clinic within two hours. Dr. Stravinsky tells Ivan that his “salvation now lies in just one thing—complete peace.” For that reason, insists the doctor, Ivan should stay in the clinic.
Dr. Stravinsky cleverly uses his own powers of suggestion to convince Ivan to stay in the clinic. His technique is not wholly dissimilar from that employed by Woland elsewhere in the novel, who plays on individuals’ reasoning and logic to manipulate them into the position he wants.
Ivan agrees to stay. He also agrees to write an account of his story, rather than try and persuade the police to catch the professor. Dr. Stravinsky tells him not to think about Pontius Pilate too much. He reassures Ivan that staying in the clinic is the right thing to do: “You’ll be helped here.”
Stravinsky humors Ivan by asking him to write down what’s happened. Ironically, the novel itself is a written record of both Woland’s visit and Pontius Pilate. Ivan thus sits down to write something that is, for once, authentic.