The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita


Mikhail Bulgakov

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Themes and Colors
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Love and Hope Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Master and Margarita, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Love and Hope Theme Icon

Love is unambiguously at the heart of The Master and Margarita. The titular characters of the novel, the master and Margarita, know that they love each other from the moment that they meet (despite both being married already) and remain devoted to one another even when their paths diverge far apart. Love, then, is shown not just to be a feeling between two people, but a force that governs their lives—a kind of fate and destiny. Furthermore, love constitutes a kind of hope—this hope keeps the master and Margarita alive, both deciding not to commit suicide because of their commitment to one another. In the novel, love and hope, like lovers, go hand in hand.

At the start of Book Two, the narrator addresses the reader directly to paint a picture of the kind of love that the master and Margarita share. This definition then informs the rest of the novel, creating a sense that the strength of their love will inevitably reunite them. The narrator describes this love as “true, faithful, eternal,” explicitly levelling criticism at the “vile tongues” of “liars” who pretend that this kind of love doesn’t exists. The narrator then implores the reader to “follow” them and be shown “such a love.” The entire book, then, becomes a consideration of this type of love. Bulgakov wants his readers to believe in this love’s existence, and to witness how it conquers both characters’ suffering. By advocating for this love’s existence, the book asks the reader to examine their own relationship to love: are their loves “true,” “faithful,” and “eternal;” and if not, why not? Or is this the kind of love that exists only rarely, not for everyone to experience?

The answer seems to be about faith and hope: everyone, Bulgakov’s book argues, should believe in this kind of love. Both the master and Margarita continue to love one another even when they don’t know if the other is still living. This belief gives purpose and meaning to their lives—in fact, it literally keeps them alive. There is, however, an important distinction between the master’s and Margarita’s attitude to their love. Whereas Margarita never gives up hope that she will find her lover, the master—fearing his novel’s rejection has made him insane—deliberately avoids contacting her. This is because he feels that the best expression of his love is to set her free. Still, both characters, in their separation from one another, strive to honor the love between them as best they can.

The force of this love ultimately takes over and leads them back to one another. This is mostly enacted by Margarita’s determination to do whatever it takes to find the master, but his actions too represent a quiet patience and grace that also constitute a kind of hope. The other marriages and relationships portrayed in the book provide the counterexample: most of the minor characters (generally the victims of Woland’s gang) have spouses, but none of them show an ounce of respect or care for their partners. Perhaps, then, the overall argument about love is similar to the argument about art: make it true and treat it with respect; acknowledge its complexities and mysteries. As in art, the novel demands this sort of authenticity in love.

Looking at this theme more widely, the message of hope and love in the novel can be read as Bulgakov’s message to his readers in defiance of the oppression the Soviet Union. He changed the title of the book a number of times and, knowing that he wouldn’t live to see the its publication, chose to emphasize not Woland’s visit to Moscow (as the earlier titles did) but to instead place the master and Margarita’s love directly at the book’s heart. This particular type of love—“real love,” continuing the idea of authenticity—is best summed up by Woland towards the end of the book (again complicating the idea of him as evil incarnate). He states that “he who loves must share the lot of the one he loves.” The book, then, is arguing for a selfless kind of love in which people give courage to one another. Love in The Master and Margarita can easily be overlooked by a reader dazzled by the wild antics of Woland and his gang, but Bulgakov clearly wants the relationship between the master and Margarita to be a paramount consideration of his readers. In doing so, the author asks people to examine their ideas of love, and advocates for authenticity and selflessness. 

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Love and Hope Quotes in The Master and Margarita

Below you will find the important quotes in The Master and Margarita related to the theme of Love and Hope.
Chapter 13 Quotes

He suddenly wiped an unexpected tear with his right sleeve and continued: ‘Love leaped out in front of us like a murderer in an alley leaping out of nowhere, and struck us both at once. As lightning strikes, as a Finnish knife strikes! She, by the way, insisted afterwards that it wasn’t so, that we had, of course, loved each other for a long, long time, without knowing each other, never having seen each other, and that she was living with a different man ... as I was, too, then ... with that, what’s her ...’

Related Characters: The Master (speaker), Margarita, Ivan “Homeless” Nikolaevich Ponyrev
Page Number: 140-141
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

Follow me, reader! Who told you that there is no true, faithful, eternal love in this world! May the liar’s vile tongue be cut out!

Follow me, my reader, and me alone, and I will show you such a love!

No! The master was mistaken when with bitterness he told Ivanushka in the hospital, at that hour when the night was falling past midnight, that she had forgotten him. That could not be. She had, of course, not forgotten him.

First of all let us reveal the secret which the master did not wish to reveal to Ivanushka. His beloved’s name was Margarita Nikolaevna.

Related Characters: Margarita, The Master, Ivan “Homeless” Nikolaevich Ponyrev
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

Naked and invisible, the lady flier tried to control and talk sense into herself; her hands trembled with impatience. Taking careful aim, Margarita struck at the keys of the grand piano, and a first plaintive wail passed all through the apartment. Becker’s drawing-room instrument, not guilty of anything, cried out frenziedly. Its keys caved in, ivory veneer flew in all directions. The instrument howled, wailed, rasped and jangled. With the noise of a pistol shot, the polished upper soundboard split under a hammer blow. Breathing hard, Margarita tore and mangled the strings with the hammer. Finally getting tired, she left off and flopped into an armchair to catch her breath.

Related Characters: Margarita, The Master, Latunsky
Page Number: 237-238
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 32 Quotes

Here Woland turned to the master and said:

‘Well, now you can finish your novel with one phrase!’

The master seemed to have been expecting this, as he stood motionless and looked at the seated procurator. He cupped his hands to his mouth and cried out so that the echo leaped over the unpeopled and unforested mountains:

‘You’re free! You’re free! He is waiting for you!’

The mountains turned the master’s voice to thunder, and by this same thunder they were destroyed. The accursed rocky walls collapsed. Only the platform with the stone armchair remained. Over the black abyss into which the walls had gone, a boundless city lit up, dominated by gleaming idols above a garden grown luxuriously over many thousands of moons. The path of moonlight so long awaited by the procurator stretched right to this garden, and the first to rush down it was the sharp-eared dog. The man in the white cloak with blood-red lining rose from the armchair and shouted something in a hoarse, cracked voice. It was impossible to tell whether he was weeping or laughing, or what he shouted. It could only be seen that, following his faithful guardian, he, too, rushed headlong down the path of moonlight.

Related Characters: Woland (speaker), The Master (speaker), Pontius Pilate, Banga
Related Symbols: The Moon/Moonlight
Page Number: 382
Explanation and Analysis:

‘Listen to the stillness,’ Margarita said to the master, and the sand rustled under her bare feet, ‘listen and enjoy what you were not given in life — peace. Look, there ahead is your eternal home, which you have been given as a reward. I can already see the Venetian window and the twisting vine, it climbs right up to the roof. Here is your home, your eternal home. I know that in the evenings you will be visited by those you love, those who interest you and who will never trouble you. They will play for you, they will sing for you, you will see what light is in the room when the candles are burning. You will fall asleep, having put on your greasy and eternal nightcap, you will fall asleep with a smile on your lips. Sleep will strengthen you, you will reason wisely. And you will no longer be able to drive me away. I will watch over your sleep.’

Thus spoke Margarita, walking with the master to their eternal home, and it seemed to the master that Margarita’s words flowed in the same way as the stream they had left behind flowed and whispered, and the master’s memory, the master’s anxious, needled memory began to fade. Someone was setting the master free, as he himself had just set free the hero he had created. This hero had gone into the abyss, gone irrevocably, the son of the astrologer-king, forgiven on the eve of Sunday, the cruel fifth procurator of Judea, the equestrian Pontius Pilate.

Related Characters: Margarita (speaker), The Master, Pontius Pilate
Related Symbols: The Moon/Moonlight
Page Number: 384
Explanation and Analysis: