(Short Stories for Students)

Alyosha listens to Ivan reciting the legend of the Grand Inquisitor, and twice interrupts the narrative to ask questions. He speaks only eight sentences in the story—all questions—but gives Ivan and Dostoevsky opportunities to explain and interpret for the reader.

The Cardinal
See The Grand Inquisitor

The Grand Inquisitor
The Grand Inquisitor, a ninety-year-old cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church during the sixteenth- century Spanish Inquisition in Seville, Spain, speaks most of the lines in the story. He is among the crowd of people to whom Jesus appears, and he sees Jesus raise a child from the dead. But the Grand Inquisitor’s own influence is so great that when he makes his presence known to the crowd, they bow before him rather than to Jesus. The Inquisitor has Jesus arrested, and comes to visit him in his cell, where he delivers the long monologue of condemnation that makes up most of the story. His speech is dense, with long complex sentences and ideas, and he uses language that is formal and old-fashioned. When he finishes his diatribe, and receives only a kiss from Jesus in return, he is flustered. He does nothing in reply except release his prisoner.

Ivan is the supposed author of the legend of the Grand Inquisitor, a story in poem form that he is reciting to Alyosha. When Alyosha occasionally breaks into the narration to ask questions, Ivan gives...

(The entire section is 416 words.)