Many of the minor characters in the Moscow narrative, who usually represent cowardice or selfishness, are depicted with briefcases. This is Bulgakov’s nod to the overbearing bureaucracy of the Soviet Union and the fine line between being an “official” and a “non-official” person. Soviet citizens often carried briefcases which held their identity papers, should they have a run-in with the authorities. But the briefcase also shows the weakness of unquestioning “duty” and loyalty to state ideology, with those citizens holding the briefcases literally unable to let go of the limitations of the society they live in. Nikolai Ivanovich provides a good example of this symbolism: when is transformed into a hog and ridden by Natasha in lieu of a broomstick, he can’t bring himself to let go of his briefcase, clutching it as if it is the most important item in the world.
Briefcases Quotes in The Master and Margarita
At a huge writing desk with a massive inkstand an empty suit sat and with a dry pen, not dipped in ink, traced on a piece of paper. The suit was wearing a necktie, a fountain pen stuck from its pocket, but above the collar there was neither neck nor head, just as there were no hands sticking out of the sleeves. The suit was immersed in work and completely ignored the turmoil that reigned around it. Hearing someone come in, the suit leaned back and from above the collar came the voice, quite familiar to the bookkeeper, of Prokhor Petrovich:
‘What is this? Isn’t it written on the door that I’m not receiving?’
The beautiful secretary shrieked and, wringing her hands, cried out: ‘You see? You see?! He’s not there! He’s not! Bring him back, bring
Here someone peeked in the door of the office, gasped, and flew out. The bookkeeper felt his legs trembling and sat on the edge of a chair,
but did not forget to pick up his briefcase. Anna Richardovna hopped around the bookkeeper, worrying his jacket, and exclaiming:
‘I always, always stopped him when he swore by the devil! So now the devil’s got him!’