The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita Summary and Analysis of Book Two - Chapters 23-24


Chapter 23 - "Satan's Great Ball"

As midnight approaches, Hella, Natasha, and Behemoth help Margarita prepare for the ball. She must wear a "heavy picture of a black poodle in an oval frame, suspended from a heavy chain," which Koroviev explains is necessary, although very uncomfortable. When Behemoth screams, "The ball!!!" they are transported to a tropical forest, through which they emerge into a cool ballroom. There is an orchestra playing a polonaise, conducted by Johann Strauss. In the next hall, a jazz band plays.

They stop at a landing in front of a wine fountain, at the head of a staircase. At midnight, the guests begin to arrive: they leap from coffins that fall out of the fireplace. All the guests are introduced to Margarita, and all committed a heinous crime while they were alive. One of them is Madame Tofana, who helped women kill their husbands and was strangled by jailers. Another of the guests is Frieda, who killed her unwanted baby with a handkerchief, and now, in death, is plagued by the indestructible handkerchief. She throws herself at Margarita's feet, but is carried away. Margarita becomes bored and exhausted, but continues to receive the guests for hours. Then, she flies through the different rooms so that the guests won't feel neglected.

Back in the ballroom, Woland enters still dressed in his nightshirt and limping slightly. Azazello holds the severed head of Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz on a platter. Woland reprimands the head for believing that everything ends after death, then transforms it into a chalice. Then Baron Meigel enters; though he is not dead, he has apparently been eavesdropping. Abaddon faces the baron and removes his glasses for a second, something flashes in Azazello's hands, there is "a low sound as if of a single handclap," and the Baron dies. Woland drinks the blood from the wound and is transformed into ball clothes. He offers the glass to Margarita and she, too, drinks the Baron's blood. Then everything dissolves and she is returned to apartment Number 50; she enters through the open door in front of her.

Chapter 24 - "Evocation of the Master"

Margarita finds herself back in Woland's bedroom, where nothing has changed since the ball. After drinking what Behemoth offers to her, Margarita feels no trace of exhaustion or intoxication; rather, she is refreshed. As they all eat delicacies, Margarita is informed that Azazello shot Baron Meigel directly in the heart; to prove his skill, Azazello uses a pistol to shoot a particular dot on a particular playing card in a deck, over his shoulder.

As the dinner continues, Margarita begins to feel deceived since she has not yet been reunited with the Master, and says it is time for her to go. Woland tells her to ask him for anything, and she asks for mercy for the tormented Frieda. Woland tells her she can do it herself: Frieda appears at the door, and Margarita tells her the handkerchief will no longer be brought to her. Woland thinks this decision was impractical on Margarita's part, and offers her another chance to ask for something.

This time, Margarita says, "I want my beloved, the Master, to be returned to me at once, this very second." It is done, but when the Master appears he believes he is hallucinating. Koroviev offers him a drink, and after drinking it the Master becomes a bit more coherent. The Master says he knows who Woland is, because Ivan has told him, but is still tempted to believe he is hallucinating. He talks of his novel about Pontius Pilate, and Woland laughs and asks to see it. The Master explains that he burned it, but he is proved wrong when Behemoth produces it.

After the Master reads through the manuscript, Margarita asks that she and the Master be returned to the little apartment in the basement where they stayed together. Woland summons Aloisy Mogarych, who apparently wrote a denunciation of the Master after reading Latunsky's article, and has now moved into the rooms himself. Woland sends him flying out the window, and summarily removes Mogarych's name from the landlord's house registry book.

Natasha enters, begging Margarita to convince Woland and the others to let her remain a witch; it is granted and she disappears. Nikolay Ivanovich enters, returned to human form, and requests a certificate stating where he slept the previous night, to present to his wife. It is done, and he disappears. Next Varenukha enters, saying he no longer wants to be a vampire and would prefer to go home. This wish, too, is granted.

Woland presents Margarita with a "small gold horseshoe covered with diamonds" as a memento, and she puts it into a napkin. They leave, but as they are getting into the waiting car, Margarita realizes she has lost the horseshoe. Annushka, who inadvertently caused Berlioz's death by spilling the sunflower oil, had been awoken by a strange man fleeing the house in his underwear just after midnight. She watched in astonishment as all the visitors of the evening left through the window, and then as Margarita, the Master, and Azazello exited on foot. She found the horseshoe and hid it in her bosom, but a mysterious, white-chested foreigner appears demands it back from her.

Margarita and the Master have been returned to the little basement apartment, with the intact manuscript. Though she is chilled by the idea that this all might be only witchcraft, nothing disappears. The Master sleeps on the sofa while she begins to read from the manuscript.


As Margarita prepares for the ball, her "head began to turn from the heady scent of rose oil." This is the same scent that bothered Pilate on the day he sentenced Yeshua to death. It is a symbol that links the two worlds. Margarita's slippers are also made from rose petals, tying her personally to Pilate. Another symbol that connects the scene of the ball to Pilate's world is the wine: "a fountain of seething wine falling into a pool made of ice" is at Margarita's back, and it causes a chill. This chill, as we have seen, is an indication of Satan's presence.

The music of the ball is conducted by Johann Strauss. It is significant as an accompaniment to the action of this chaotic scene: "She was overwhelmed by the roar of trumpets, and a wave of violin music, breaking from under it, washed over her body like blood. The orchestra of about a hundred and fifty musicians was playing a polonaise." The simile comparing the music to blood implies its visceral effect on Margarita.

The symbol of the poodle permeates the ball; Margarita must wear a heavy necklace with the image of a poodle, and she rests her foot on "a cushion with a gold poodle embroidered on it." This symbol is an allusion to Goethe's Faust, in which the devil Mephistopheles appears to Faust as a poodle.

In talking to the Master about Ivan, Woland makes a particularly ironic comment: "I had the pleasure of meeting the young man at the Patriarch's Ponds. He almost drove me insane, proving to me that I do not exist." Of course, it was Woland who eventually drove Ivan insane, in proving the exact opposite to be true.

Woland reads aloud from the manuscript of the Master's novel: "Even at night, in moonlight, I have no rest... Why did they trouble me? Oh, gods, gods..." Not only is this quotation significant because of the leitmotif, "Oh gods, gods..." it also mentions the moonlight, another link between the two worlds. Satan himself reading the words is significant, since the world of Pontius Pilate exists not only in the Master's manuscript, but in Woland's story and memory.

In Chapter 24, a loose end in The Master and Margarita reveals the incomplete nature of the novel. The man in his underwear who collides with Annushka on the stairs is meant to be Aloisy Mogarych, but earlier it was said that Woland sent him flying right out the window.