The Grand Inquisitor
The Grand Inquisitor reflects Fyodor Dostoevsky interest in religious and political issues. Dostoevsky uses the voices of his characters to express his views on the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church and role of religion in society. The story centers around the conflict between the Grand Inquisitor and Jesus. Jesus returns to Earth during the Spanish Inquisition, when in which Jews and Muslims were forced to convert to Christianity and were murdered if not devoted in their belief. The Grand Inquisitor examines the relationship between man and Christ through a unique narrative style that adds various depths of meaning to the story.
To begin with, the most striking feature of this work is that it is a story within a story. The Grand Inquisitor is part of the novel entitled The Brother’s Karamazov, in which Dostoevsky has already introduced the two brothers, Alyosha and Ivan. In The Grand Inquisitor, however, Ivan is the author of the legend of the Grand Inquisitor, a story poem that he is telling to Alyosha. Through this type of writing, Dostoevsky has created multiple levels of narration, which is truly remarkable. In the first few lines of the story, for example, we are uncertain as to who is the narrator, “God our Lord, reveal thyself to us’, for so many centuries they had calling out to him, that in his immeasurable compassion desired to descend to these who were pleading… he had descended even before then, he had visited some righteous men, martyrs, and holy hermits while they were still on earth, as is written in their lives.” The narrator explains his role and reveals himself in the next few lines, “my action is set in Spain, in Serville, in the most horrible time of the Inquisition, when fires blazed everyday to the glory of God…” Once the Inquisitor begins to speak, his words take up the majority of the story, thus leaving little room for any other comments. In fact, when Alyosha asks Ivan a question, Ivan dismisses the question and suggests Alyosha focuses on what the Inquisitor is saying, not on the insignificant detail. For instance, this conversation between Ivan and Alyosha illustrates that point, “I don’t quite understand what this is Ivan…is it boundless fantasy or some mistake on the old man’s part, some impossible qui pro quo?…Ivan laughed…but isn’t it all the same to me whether it’s qui pro quo or boundless fantasy? The only thing is that the old man needs to speak out, as say aloud all that he has been silent about for ninety years.”
The Inquisitor, a ninety-year-old cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, condemns the action of Jesus and imprisons him during the Spanish Inquisition. This conflict between the Inquisitor and Jesus, who is represented as God and is a result of the Inquisitor believes that Jesus is no longer needed on Earth. The Roman Catholic Church,...