Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

by Mikhail Bulgakov

Moderator: Liz

User avatar
fireflydances
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 3174
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:15 pm
Location: under a pile of books
Contact:

Status: Offline

Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby fireflydances » Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:35 pm

"So you've been invited here as a consultant Professor? asked Berlioz.

"Yes, that's right."


So, here we are with the next question(s), as this is a multi-part one. We'd always planned that we would ask about Woland at this point. As Buster actually came very close to asking our question herself, I'm going to fit them together.

First, who do you think Woland is? The answers are likely to be varied.

Then Buster adds: What do you think is the nature of evil? What do you think Bulgakov thinks is the nature of evil? Is the devil completely evil? Consider the theatre goers who were tricked - is it possible to avoid falling into the "hands of the devil"?
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

User avatar
nebraska
Posts: 28232
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:15 pm
Location: near Omaha

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Sep 17, 2012 8:45 pm

Think I will sleep on that one! My brain has been going in all sorts of directions about this since I read the book! :hypnotic:

User avatar
Buster
Posts: 810
Joined: Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:07 am

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby Buster » Tue Sep 18, 2012 6:51 am

Ah, Woland...I think he's one of my favorite characters ever. He the one I keep hoping will show up, the amoral instigator, the experimenter, the illuminator of what it is to be human.

He's the trickster, impatient of fools; nihilistic, yet constantly engaging. His wisdom comes from having seen it all, done it all, and so he is searching for novelty.

Is he "the devil"? Certainly he embodies temptation, but I'm not so sure he is a force of evil - Can't unmasking human faults be considered a good thing?

As for falling into the hands of the devil - while it may not be avoidable, it seems to be the key thing is how you behave once your in his clutches :)

Thanks, firefly, for starting this topic - I know it may be touchy, but i really hope people will share their opinions.

User avatar
nebraska
Posts: 28232
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:15 pm
Location: near Omaha

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby nebraska » Tue Sep 18, 2012 7:40 am

The devil of my Christian upbringing was one-dimensional and completely evil with no gray areas and no redeeming qualities and only torture in his eternity. Woland does not fit that profile. He has human failings (the painful knee) and he has charm, humor, and even at times compassion -- after all, he offers the Master and Margarita an eternal peaceful existence in the afterlife and he lets Pilate go to rest after hundreds of years in limbo. Of course, my Christian upbringing also taught the devil was clever and cunning, so some of his charm and humor may merely be trickery to inspire ill-placed trust. The piece missing is that we have no present-day God for him to play against -- Woland and his crew have the powers of magic and can do superhuman things, but if they are evil there is no equal "good" power to balance them. Bulgakov certainly implies that Woland is the devil. But he is not the devil I thought I knew. Is the devil actually a multi-faceted being as Woland is presented here?

The theater-goers were caught up in mass hysteria and a desire to get riches without working for them, like a prize or a gift. I think that is simple human nature -- foolish to be sure, watch any television game show! and feel your own reactions when contestants win or lose -- but I am not sure they were actually evil. What is evil? Sometimes I think I know evil when I see it but there are always layers and shadings and it can become confusing. Life was much simpler when I saw everything in stark black and white.

User avatar
Buster
Posts: 810
Joined: Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:07 am

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby Buster » Tue Sep 18, 2012 7:50 am

The piece missing is that we have no present-day God for him to play against --


When atheism is mandated, the state becomes the de facto "god", and when the regime behaves immorally, "god" becomes the devil...a situation that must appeal mightily to the likes of Woland.

User avatar
Liz
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 12971
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:13 pm
Location: The Left Coast

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby Liz » Tue Sep 18, 2012 4:02 pm

nebraska wrote:Bulgakov certainly implies that Woland is the devil. But he is not the devil I thought I knew. Is the devil actually a multi-faceted being as Woland is presented here?

I agree that Bulgakov implies this in a number of places throughout the book. And I do think that Bulgakov thinks of the devil in that regard. According to the Afterward, Bulgakov was a believer in religious feeling, but not necessarily of organized religion. One could take that so far as to say that what he is trying to say is the devil is not necessarily what you have been taught by your organized religion. Taking it a step further, I think he was using the devil (as opposed to God) to make a point about Atheism. Seemed to me that Woland was trying to prove a point to these 2 Atheist guys. So you don't think God exists, eh? You don't believe in fate, huh? Well, I'll show you a thing or two, and we'll start by my knowing that Berlioz, you're about to get yourself killed. And then I'll have a little bit of fun with a whole slew of folks in Moscow who think that God and the devil are hogwash. Also, from what I've read, it appears that Bulgakov likes to twist reality a little, or put a new spin on things, maybe be a bit ambiguous (or a lot ambiguous), and make you just question or look at things a little differently.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

User avatar
Liz
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 12971
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:13 pm
Location: The Left Coast

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby Liz » Tue Sep 18, 2012 4:06 pm

Buster wrote:
The piece missing is that we have no present-day God for him to play against --


When atheism is mandated, the state becomes the de facto "god", and when the regime behaves immorally, "god" becomes the devil...a situation that must appeal mightily to the likes of Woland.

Hadn't thought of it that way. :interesting:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

User avatar
Buster
Posts: 810
Joined: Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:07 am

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby Buster » Tue Sep 18, 2012 4:54 pm

I think he was using the devil (as opposed to God) to make a point about Atheism.


I agree, but it also makes me wonder - Let's say that the existence of the devil proves (or at least strongly implies) the existence of god. Now Woland doesn't seem to me to be totally evil ( and I can make a pretty good case for him not being "evil" at all) which makes me wonder just how fallible his counterpart might be. Didn't Pilate struggle with aspects of this?

RamblinRebel
Posts: 608
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:24 pm
Location: Chicago or thereabouts

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Tue Sep 18, 2012 6:58 pm

Went to post about Woland and I lost my internet connection! What the devil? Posting from my phone but my battery is about to die! I'll try again later when my electronics are working... Or he lets me. :mwahaha:

User avatar
Liz
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 12971
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:13 pm
Location: The Left Coast

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby Liz » Tue Sep 18, 2012 7:31 pm

Buster wrote:
I think he was using the devil (as opposed to God) to make a point about Atheism.


I agree, but it also makes me wonder - Let's say that the existence of the devil proves (or at least strongly implies) the existence of god. Now Woland doesn't seem to me to be totally evil ( and I can make a pretty good case for him not being "evil" at all) which makes me wonder just how fallible his counterpart might be. Didn't Pilate struggle with aspects of this?

I would agree on both counts. I don't see Woland as totally evil either.

Could be that Bulgakov was implying that things may not be what they seem.

Another thought is that Bulgakov is using Woland to insinuate that (or maybe out of his own frustration) that the Soviets did not control their own destinies. Bulgakov's frustration came from his being controlled by the Stalinist regime.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

RamblinRebel
Posts: 608
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:24 pm
Location: Chicago or thereabouts

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Tue Sep 18, 2012 8:46 pm

Internet’s back. So, Woland… it’s been very difficult to organize my thoughts about him succinctly, because every time I think I reach a conclusion about his nature or role, I find myself asking more questions. Then I start thinking about those, and inevitably, I am led to still more questions. (But I have to admit, I love that about this discussion!) So, I think I’ll start with the specific questions asked at the top of this thread. Then I’ll throw in my :twocents: about what’s been said so far and maybe add my questions about him at the end. Liz and firefly – if you think it’s better to move those questions to #7 or elsewhere, please do! Ok, here goes.

I think Woland is “the devil”, but I agree that he is certainly not the Satan of my Catholic upbringing or the one of the classic horror movies. As Nebraska and Buster have pointed out, he has redeeming qualities. He rewards Margarita for her compassion with Frieda and her love for the Master. And aside from quickly killing off Berlioz, he really doesn’t do anything that I’d consider evil. Which brings us to the next question – what is the “nature of evil”?

For me, evil is John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahlmer, Adolf Hitler. Torturing and killing the innocent in a most brutal way. Evil is Bernie Madoff. Unabated lying, cheating and stealing out of greed and avarice. Evil is systematically destroying another person’s spirit or livelihood through verbal or physical abuse. Evil is intentionally hurting someone else in order to improve your own life. Woland does not exhibit these behaviors.

As for “falling into the hands of the devil”, I think it can be avoided. I personally believe in free will, and I think Bulgakov made it clear that most of the people Woland encountered were given a choice. In the Variety I think Woland had a little fun playing with our greedy desires and pointing out our shortcomings, which could not have happened if the patrons were forced to take the clothes and rubles. While the orchestra was forced to play the march at the end, I think the theater goers had a choice. There was hesitation at first. They thought it over. The Master and Margarita were given a choice. Others who suffered under his hand were usually warned first – “don’t make those phone calls”. They refused his bidding, and suffered the consequences, but no permanent harm came to them. Again the exception is Berlioz, which I’m still trying to figure out. :perplexed:
Liz wrote:
Buster wrote:
The piece missing is that we have no present-day God for him to play against --

When atheism is mandated, the state becomes the de facto "god", and when the regime behaves immorally, "god" becomes the devil...a situation that must appeal mightily to the likes of Woland.
Hadn't thought of it that way. :interesting:

Woah! That's quite a different perspective. But, in thinking it over Buster, it really makes a lot of sense. :cool:

Liz wrote:I think he was using the devil (as opposed to God) to make a point about Atheism. Seemed to me that Woland was trying to prove a point to these 2 Atheist guys. So you don't think God exists, eh? You don't believe in fate, huh? Well, I'll show you a thing or two, and we'll start by my knowing that Berlioz, you're about to get yourself killed. And then I'll have a little bit of fun with a whole slew of folks in Moscow who think that God and the devil are hogwash.
Yes, I agree with you there!

nebraska wrote: The piece missing is that we have no present-day God for him to play against --

This for me gets to the heart of a bigger question that plagued me while reading and was actually raised in the Afterword (glad I reread it!) What exactly is Woland's role in the bigger scheme of things? Where is he on the org chart of the supernatural? Or as they put it in the Afterword, who is in charge? (I have opinions on this, but not sure if I should add them here. Or maybe I'll wait to see what others say. :) )

Here's another question I have: Why do you think Woland showed up in Moscow at that exact time? I've come up with three possible answers for this, but I don't know if any, all or none of them are correct.

I think I'm going to add a couple more questions to the previous thread now. :)

User avatar
nebraska
Posts: 28232
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:15 pm
Location: near Omaha

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby nebraska » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:41 pm

And always there is the underlying issue of what Woland represents -- or who he represents -- in the satire.

When we discuss Woland and his crew and evil, I would have to say the firey destruction of so many buildings at the end was evil. To some degree at least.

User avatar
fireflydances
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 3174
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:15 pm
Location: under a pile of books
Contact:

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:32 pm

Wow! Wonderful discussion, lots of ideas. What a book, huh? So much to chew on. In any case, I've been itching all day to sit down and get my own theories out, and they're strong ones. This doesn't mean I am right. It's only another card on the table. Let me know what you think back.

So, Woland! I recognize Woland as the shady guy who's got the heart of a diamond and is wise about human nature. Yeah, him and his gang rough up a few people, kill one or two baddies, but basically they're tricksters, small time hoods who are there to stir things up. The Soviet ideology was that 'fix the economic problem' and rationally reorganize things, and humanity in general will sail on to become this perfect race. We can solve everything on our own. This is basically what Berlioz says. And Woland sort of laughs -- yeah, so you guys are in charge, eh? And the next thing we see is Berlioz's head rolling in the street.

This opinion may be a leap, but I think the Woland works for God(as in the "creator of the universe who takes a kind of 'off-hands' approach to his creations) while running his own shop on the side. I absolutely see him as 'the Devil' but not one 'in war' with God, but basically existing with God. Every light needs a shadow, no? Otherwise, how would we know the light was there?

I think our world is both good and evil. Absolutely horrible things happen. Mankind causes these things, not someone else. Us. At the same time, we desire to bring good, we work for good. But we need to always understand that we are imperfect.

I think Woland arrived in Moscow to rectify a situation and test some folks out, but I don't want to lay my theory out all at once. He's a jaded fellow -- seen thousands of years of selfishness, thievery, enslavement: humanity at it's very best, ha! But he's there to handle a matter he's been asked to look into. How will it go? Is God right in the end?

I also think that the compassionate person, like God, can see through to the essential heart of any person, with good, with bad as part of the mix.

Anyway...a strong opinion, but at least something to discuss.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

User avatar
nebraska
Posts: 28232
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:15 pm
Location: near Omaha

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:39 am

Wonderful post, firefly, and worth a bit more thought on my part. Because, in the end, if Woland is indeed the devil I don't think he was such a bad guy!

User avatar
Liz
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 12971
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:13 pm
Location: The Left Coast

Status: Offline

Re: Master and Margarita Question #8: Woland

Unread postby Liz » Wed Sep 19, 2012 2:32 pm

RamblinRebel wrote: And aside from quickly killing off Berlioz, he really doesn’t do anything that I’d consider evil. Which brings us to the next question – what is the “nature of evil”?...........

They refused his bidding, and suffered the consequences, but no permanent harm came to them. Again the exception is Berlioz, which I’m still trying to figure out. :perplexed:

Glad you got your Internet back, RR, because you gave us lots of food for thought here.

Let me throw in a possible theory on Berlioz. I was never sold that Woland killed him. He knew it would happen. But that doesn't mean he caused it. I think he was trying to make a point about predestination and how Berlioz (or man) was not in charge. And he knew he could make this point because he knew it was going to happen.

If it had not been for the fires, I would have thought that this band of wiseguys were just having fun and stirring things up. I think that they went a bit far with the fires. I wonder if that was always in the novel or if Bulgakov added it somewhere along the way.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


Return to “The Master and Margarita”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest