In chapters 24, following the midnight ball, Margarita and Woland are relaxing in Woland's bedroom. The first time Margarita met Woland, he had been lying down; however, he is currently “sitting in his nightshirt on the bed” (236). Woland asks Margarita if “they [wore] you out completely,” but she denies it. Woland nevertheless insists that she “drink up” and “sit down” to restore her strength. After Begemot's little scene, Woland and Margarita resume their business, which is right now for Woland to reward Margarita for her services at the ball the previous evening. Later in the chapter, Woland offers a prophecy in which he tells the Master that the Pilate novel will surprise him, but that nothing terrible will happen. The prophecy, of course, hints at Woland's own intentions. Finally, just as Margarita is about to leave, Woland surprisingly takes the gold and diamond horseshoe from under a pillow and insists Margarita take it, even though she refuses at first.
In chapter 25, which not-coincidentally follows the previous scene, Bulgakov shifts to Jerusalem, where Pilate is waiting for Afranius to return from the execution. Wherea...
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...t cowardice was the worst of human sins, even though it really was “Hail to the merciful hegemon.”
The contrast between the moral and evil services of Margarita and Afranius perhaps alludes to the inherent wrongness in blindly obeying a higher power. Afranius is never troubled by the question of right and wrong and subserviently obeys the power of Pilate's office without question, perhaps leading him to his moral demise in his growing desire to manipulate others and attain power. On the other hand, Margarita is motivated in a purely moral sense by her love for the Master. She obeys Woland not because of his power, but because of her own desire to save the Master and his work. After considering all the evidence of the similarities between the two characters, we must surely realize that Bulgakov set up this ironic contrast between Margarita and Afranius purposefully.
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