How could the themes from Dostoyevsky's The Grand Inquisitor and Notes from Underground be compared and contrasted with those from Huxley's Brave New World?
All three works raise questions about the intersection of suffering, freedom and rationality in society and all three reflect a world in which, for the first time, it was considered possible to engineer a society without suffering. In "The Grand Inquisitor," Ivan tells a story of Christ returning to earth, arriving in Spain during the Inquisition. Instead of embracing Christ as one would expect a representative of the Church to do, the Inquisitor sentences Jesus to death. Visiting him in his jail cell, the Inquisitor tells Jesus that the people don't want or need the freedom Jesus has offered them. Jesus' freedom has caused suffering: instead of rejecting the temptations in the desert, he should have turned the stones into bread to feed the people, allowed himself to saved by throwing himself from the tower, thus giving the people miracles to impress them, and sought earthly political power in order to help people. Jesus kisses the Grand Inquisitor, who lets him quietly escape, telling him not to come back.
Like the Inquisitor, Mustapha Mond in Brave New World believes people are happier without freedom and has engineered what he believes to be a Utopian world in which there is no pain or suffering. This world has no religion, no great literature, no great art, and no deep relationships either, but on a superficial level people enjoy plenty of material goods, have been conditioned to like their lives, have lots of sex, and have soma, a narcotic, available in case they should feel any pang of discontent. The Savage in this novel acts as a Christ figure of sorts, arguing that he would rather experience pain and suffering than live the shallow, narcotized existence provided by Mond's planned, rational world. However, as the novel ends, unlike the Inquisitor's Christ, the Savage does not reach out in reconciliation to kiss his enemy. Yet, like the Christ figure, he is a potentially disruptive force in the society: his ideas are unwelcome. Unlike the Christ figure, he does at one point actually try to disrupt this world by throwing out a supply of soma, wanting to free people from their mindlessness. We don't see Christ in "The Grand Inquisitor" disrupting the world, but we have to imagine he will.
The Underground Man in Notes from the Underground also questions rationalist utopias and, like the Savage, believes pain and suffering are necessary for people to be truly happy and free. He believes that people will not necessarily behave rationally and in their own best interests but will do irrational and destructive things simply in order to feel free. Unlike the Savage, who never loses his passion, the Underground Man feels paralyzed, and unlike in Brave New World, Russian society has not been engineered and conditioned into mindless obedience. Although disruptive towards society, as Christ is, and a believer in freedom as well, the Underground Man is often spiteful rather than loving.