Master and Margarita Question #14: Who Said That?

by Mikhail Bulgakov

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Master and Margarita Question #14: Who Said That?

Unread postby fireflydances » Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:59 pm

From time to time in the book, we hear from an unidentified observer who introduces himself mostly as "I," but occasionally as "we." Here are some examples:

Even I, a truthful narrator, but a detached observer nonetheless, feel my heart contract when I think of what Margarita went through the next day when she came to the Master's house and found that he was no longer there.
Chapter 19

The writer of these truthful lines has himself heard, while on a train to Feodosiya, a story about how in Moscow two thousand people walked out of a theater naked in the literal sense of the word and then went home in taxis in the same state. Epilogue

Sometimes the narrator offers a brief aside --Well, as everyone knows, once witchcraft gets started, there's no stopping it, (The Evil Apartment) Or offers to bring us up to speed on something: "Let us explain: Styopa Likhodeyev, the director of the Variety Theater regained consciousness that morning in the apartment that he shared with the late Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz..... (Both excerpts from Chapter 7: The Evil Apartment)

Whoever is speaking is usually witty, advises us that he's detached--not involved on a personal level -- and always truthful.

Who do you think the narrator is? (If you have other examples of our mysterious guide, bring them along)
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Re: Master and Margarita Question #14: Who Said That?

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:03 pm

I really don’t know who the narrator is, but I didn’t get the impression that it was the voice of the author, as is sometimes the case. I sort of imagined him as a close family friend, a great story teller who had gathered us all around the fire and was telling us this fantastic tale. You trust him, as you would a friend, and he entertains you for hours with his story...

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Re: Master and Margarita Question #14: Who Said That?

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:52 pm

The thing that strikes me is the narrator has to be present in all these scenes. Yes, he's telling us the story now, after the death of Master and Margarita and all else that happened, but he had to be there.

So then I think: maybe he's Woland? The devil could definitely be in all these places without anyone realizing it.

Does anyone think the narrator might be Woland?
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Re: Master and Margarita Question #14: Who Said That?

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:32 am

I really hadn't given the identity of the narrator much thought except that some of the study guide material I have read pointed out that the voice of the narrator seems to change from time to time -- sometimes knowing everything and sometimes shrugging shoulders and admitting a lack of understanding of events. I was aware of this as I read, but I wasn't bothered by it. I rather liked the way it was written.

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Re: Master and Margarita Question #14: Who Said That?

Unread postby fireflydances » Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:34 am

You're right Nebraska, not knowing isn't a problem, and no matter what we say there is no one, anywhere, who can say you are right or, you are wrong.

The question is open-ended so that we can put forth any idea we have. My idea is Woland.

Why do I think this? Partly it's because the narrator is very tolerant to everything that occurs. Like you said, sometimes he seems in control and other times just observing with a curious detachment. I particularly like his reaction to Margarita. The narrator doesn't understand any of the woman's motivations.

I don't think it's Bulgakov. I mean, he wrote the book, he created all the characters. But, I think Bulgakov wouldn't want to be found in his book. More interested in spinning mysteries.
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Re: Master and Margarita Question #14: Who Said That?

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:10 am

I hadn’t considered Woland, but it does make sense, firefly. The narrator is certainly omniscient, and his “voice” – his style of speaking – is very similar to that of what I’d call “Woland the storyteller” who we are introduced to at Patriarch’s Ponds. Interesting possibility! :eyebrow: I’ll throw out another one – could it be the voice of God, as a detached, but truthful, observer? I think firefly mentioned in an earlier post that maybe he has a “hands-off” approach to things in this novel… And you do have to wonder where he is and what he is doing while all this is going on... In my mind the narrator doesn’t “sound” like what I’d think of when I think of God speaking, but I could make a case for it…

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Re: Master and Margarita Question #14: Who Said That?

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:44 pm

RamblinRebel wrote:I hadn’t considered Woland, but it does make sense, firefly. The narrator is certainly omniscient, and his “voice” – his style of speaking – is very similar to that of what I’d call “Woland the storyteller” who we are introduced to at Patriarch’s Ponds. Interesting possibility! :eyebrow: I’ll throw out another one – could it be the voice of God, as a detached, but truthful, observer? I think firefly mentioned in an earlier post that maybe he has a “hands-off” approach to things in this novel… And you do have to wonder where he is and what he is doing while all this is going on... In my mind the narrator doesn’t “sound” like what I’d think of when I think of God speaking, but I could make a case for it…

Well, the narrator doesn't sound like what I think the devil would sound like, either, really. Either possibility is intriguing -- and possible. That is, if the narrator has a clear-cut identity beyond Bulgakov and isn't just any old story teller on the street. As I said, I never wondered who it was. :dunce:

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Re: Master and Margarita Question #14: Who Said That?

Unread postby Buster » Thu Sep 27, 2012 5:06 pm

The narrator is omnipresent, and certainly detached - I have a hard time thinking of him as god, however. Somehow there's a snarkiness of tone that just doesn't jibe.
However, if you consider Woland an incarnation of the devil, then the narrator could certainly be the devil himself :bigwink:

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Re: Master and Margarita Question #14: Who Said That?

Unread postby Liz » Sun Sep 30, 2012 3:10 pm

I've been out of town for the past 4 days, and my attendance has been spotty. And somehow I never got back to this question. I apologize for not weighing in.

I read the entire book before I even thought about the narrator. I was just involved in the story. And I have to add that is typical for me, unless there is some obvious reason for me to care (like in Gone Girl, where the chapters alternate between the husband's current voice and the wife's diary). So I had to go back to read some of M&M again in order to get a sense of him (or her).

To me, the easy answer, and the one that makes the most sense to me, is that it is Bulgakov. But that is almost too easy (this book does not take the easy road). I don't think that it's the Master or Margarita or Woland - in fact, none of the characters, because the narrator is an observer of all of the characters and all of the action.

Now, if Woland is considered to be an incarnation of the devil, not the devil himself, then it could be Woland. But I don't look at Woland as an incarnation but as the devil himself. So then the only other possibility left (assuming the narrator is not Bulgakov) is God. It would certainly put a twist on things. And, as RR said, he's been AWOL throughout the story, except for the presence of Yeshua in the Pilate story, and that is really God’s son. The problem with this argument is that God would understand events and the motivation of women – unless he was joking with us. I can totally see the narrator finding much of the events quite humorous, especially in the retelling. Furthermore, Bulgakov likes to tweak things, and he has tweaked the devil, the Pilate story, etc. So why not tweak God, the narrator?

So my vote goes to: God
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.


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