In The Brothers Karamazov, how does the theme of the “Grand Inquisitor” story resonate still today (i.e., current events and pop culture)?   

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Let us remember that the story of the Grand Inquisitor that Ivan tells his brother, Alyosha, is an incredible denunciation of the church and their abuse of power. The central idea is that Jesus returns but is sentenced to execution by the Inquisition. The Inquisitor explains that Jesus is no longer needed, and in fact that his presence interferes in the mission of the church, as Jesus made the mistake of believing humans could cope with too much freedom. In fact, the opposite is true, and therefore Jesus excluded vast swathes of the world's population from salvation because of man's inability to cope with freedom, the Inquisitor argues.

The themes of restriction and power and despotism in the church are clearly present. So powerful has this story been that it has actually impacted a number of other writers and authors, and is alluded to in very different ways. For example, this story is the basis of a play by Tony Kushner called Only We Who Guard The Mystery Shall Be Unhappy. The third season finale of The X-Files alluded to this story by updating it, and Noam Chomsky references The Grand Inquisitor in his work Necessary Illusions. The Ocean Collective alludes to this story in their album Anthropocentric, where the tale runs across three songs. Such a plethora of texts show the impact of this story and how it lives on long after its author conceived of it.

 

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