The Master and Margarita

Cowardice and Consequences in "Master and Margarita"

In Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, The Master and Margarita, many types of sin and corruption are exemplified in both Moscow and Yershalaim: people are rude and curt to others for no reason, accept bribes, act and speak hypocritically, spy and betray others, and so on. In Moscow, each person who commits these sins is punished by Woland, the arbiter of retribution. The sheer volume of attention given to the sin of cowardice in particular and its consequences makes it possible to assert that Bulgakov considers cowardice to be the worst vice of all. Cowardice certainly is the worst of the sins that the characters in Bulgakov’s novel commit; however, it is only cowardice at the expense of others that Bulgakov judges and punishes the most severely, and committing this sin does not mean that one cannot be granted absolution. Thus, it is difficult to claim it as an “ultimate” sin.

Two very important characters are presented in The Master and Margarita as antitheses of the cowardice that reigns in both Moscow and Yershalaim: Margarita and Yeshua. When looking at the cowardice of the other characters, it is important to examine Margarita and Yeshua first; they provide the models for good behavior against whom Bulgakov measures the cowardly...

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