Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Patterson, Charles I. (Charles Ivey), 1913-1989||Seat, William

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Dostoyevsky; Fyodor; 1821-1881; Russian literature--19th century


Fyodor Dostoevsky's "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor" offers man two choices--either spiritual subjugation or spiritual freedom. By understanding the significance of those two choices one can begin to understand Dostoevsky's tragic view of life, and it is for this reason that "The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor" has such far reaching significance for any student of Dostoevsky's fiction. Many critics who attempt to interpret this legend approach it as if it were an autonomous literary work. This thesis attempts to demonstrate that this approach is inadequate and that a more fruitful means by which the legend can be interpreted is to consider it as the product of the creative imagination of Ivan Karamasov, who is its fictional author within the novel, The Brothers Karamasov. Ivan Karamasov is Dostoevsky's consummate representation of a man who possesses a keen intelligence and a dual nature, a man torn between the dictates of his conscience and the dictates of his will, and a man who relies solely upon his intellect to find meaning in life. Ivan, then, represents, because of his duality, what has been translated into English as the double, and, because of his reliance upon his intellect, he represents Dostoevsky's concept of the man of reason. To understand Ivan it is necessary to understand fully these two concepts. In an attempt to discover how deeply these concepts pervade Dostoevsky's fiction and to give them concrete meaning, their development is traced throughout his major literary works prior to The Brothers Karamasov, and this development is related to the use of "The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor" to delineate the essential character of Ivan. By understanding Ivan and the fictional progenitors in Dostoevsky's fiction, one can come to understand fully the results of man's choosing spiritual subjugation rather than spiritual freedom. Several of Dostoevsky's characters do choose spiritual freedom and its inescapable suffering. An attempt is made, therefore, to investigate these characters in several of Dostoevsky's major novels. With more extensive knowledge of Ivan Karamasov's rigid posture between these two poles and an understanding of those characters who choose spiritual freedom, one can perceive the deeper significance of the choice Dostoevsky gives man in "The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor." With this knowledge one can comprehend how tragic this choice is and how much more tragic it is to be unable to make the choice at all, which is Ivan’s pitiable predicament. As a result, one can better understand Dostoevsky's tragic view of life, and to reveal the particular nature of that view is ultimately the purpose of this thesis.


Includes bibliographical references.


iii, 108 pages




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