This question contains minor spoilers for The Master and Margarita.

The plot of this novel revolves around a character initially known as Woland causing chaos in and around Moscow. In the course of time, it is revealed that Woland is actually the devil, who performs various acts of supernatural trickery on the citizens.

What's noteworthy, however, is that Woland is presented as a genial, polite and sympathetic character, as are most of the demons in his entourage. Furthermore, almost all the wickedness he inflicts on the people of Moscow is targetted at people who deserve it in some way, either because they are corrupt, or greedy, or hypocritical. At the end of the novel, he grants mercy to a sinner at Margarita's request and gives several characters who participated in witchcraft a form of eternal reward.

This vision of Satan is very different from the one promulgated by the Church. While the idea of the devil as a charismatic liar isn't far removed from the traditional portrayal, the idea that Satan might turn up to do good on earth, let alone offer mercy to those consigned to hell, seems at odds with his role in overseeing the eternal punishment of sinners.

Given that religion is a major theme in Bulgakov's novel, it strikes me that he must have has his reasons for presenting the devil in such a sympathetic light. What was he trying to say about religion and its perception of evil by giving us such a relatable portrayal of Satan?

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    Cf Mephistopheles describing himself as "Part of the Power that would always wish Evil and always works the Good". Dec 21, 2023 at 20:22

1 Answer 1


Woland's image is different from the usual description because he doesn't hurt people intentionally. He gives people a chance of deliberate choice. Thus he does justice rather than embodies evil. The author wants to say that good and evil often go together, they are inseparable in the world and in a person and it's up to people to choose between them.

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