The Grand Inquisitor/Rebellion
In this chapter, Ivan relates several news stories that he has collected over the years. Each story is about a child that has been abused, or murdered, or otherwise made to suffer. Ivan claims that if god allows these children to suffer, Ivan will not accept any invitation into God's kingdom. After this, Alyosha says "That's rebellion!".
"I MUST make one confession" Ivan began. "I could never understand how one can love one's neighbours. It's just one's neighbours, to my mind, that one can't love, though one might love those at a distance. I once read somewhere of John the Merciful, a saint, that when a hungry, frozen beggar came to him, he took him into his bed, held him in his arms, and began breathing into his mouth, which was putrid and loathsome from some awful disease. I am convinced that he did that from 'self-laceration,' from the self-laceration of falsity, for the sake of the charity imposed by duty, as a penance laid on him. For anyone to love a man, he must be hidden, for as soon as he shows his face, love is gone."
Ivan here is referring to a passage from the book of Matthew, 22:35:
- Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Jesus claimed that "love thy neighbor" was the second most important law of god. It is by claiming to not be able to follow this law (and providing some justification against it) that Ivan starts this discussion.
"Father Zossima has talked of that more than once," observed Alyosha; "he, too, said that the face of a man often hinders many people not practised in love, from loving him. But yet there's a great deal of love in mankind, and almost Christ-like love. I know that myself, Ivan."
Father Zossima is Alyosha's mentor at the monestary, and a well-respected local figure.
"Well, I know nothing of it so far, and can't understand it, and the innumerable mass of mankind are with me there. The question is, whether that's due to men's bad qualities or whether it's inherent in their nature. To my thinking, Christ-like love for men is a miracle impossible on earth. He was God. But we are not gods. Suppose I, for instance, suffer intensely. Another can never know how much I suffer, because he is another and not I. And what's more, a man is rarely ready to admit another's suffering (as though it were a distinction). Why won't he admit it, do you think? Because I smell unpleasant, because I have a stupid face, because I once trod on his foot. Besides, there is suffering and suffering; degrading, humiliating suffering such as humbles me- hunger, for instance- my benefactor will perhaps allow me; but when you come to higher suffering- for an idea, for instance- he will very rarely admit that, perhaps because my face strikes him as not at all what he fancies a man should have who suffers for an idea. And so he deprives me instantly of his favour, and not at all from badness of heart. Beggars, especially genteel beggars, ought never to show themselves, but to ask for charity through the newspapers. One can love one's neighbours in the abstract, or even at a distance, but at close quarters it's almost impossible. If it were as on the stage, in the ballet, where if beggars come in, they wear silken rags and tattered lace and beg for alms dancing gracefully, then one might like looking at them. But even then we should not love them."
When Ivan says "Christ-like love" he is referring to unconditional love towards your neightbors and your enemies. Ivan here is claiming that people in general are incapable of this kind of love by their nature, and are therefore incapable of following the laws of Jesus.
This is an important point in the narrative. Here, Ivan turns the focus of the conversation squarely onto the issue of children, and not on man-kind in general. He does this for two reasons: he says that restricting his conversation to children will limit his argument, but also because people are compassionate towards children.
"the apple" here refers to the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, from the garden of eden. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit (which later came to be identified with an apple) they committed what is now known as "original sin". Saint Augustine first wrote about the concept of original sin, a fallen state of humanity that is inherited by children from their parents.
Ivan starts by saying that it is "incomprehensible" that children should be made to suffer because of their original sin. If an innocent person should not suffer for the sins of another person, then children should not suffer for the sins of their ancestors.
Ivan goes on to talk about how even the most cruel and evil people still love children. He justifies this by saying that children are so small in stature that they are essentially different creatures from regular adult humans. When Ivan is talking about the affection or love that adults generally feel towards children, he is talking about a patronly love, not a sexual or romantic kind.
"You speak with a strange air," observed Alyosha uneasily, "as though you were not quite yourself."
"By the way, a Bulgarian I met lately in Moscow," Ivan went on, seeming not to hear his brother's words, "told me about the crimes committed by Turks and Circassians in all parts of Bulgaria through fear of a general rising of the Slavs. They burn villages, murder, outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to the fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang them- all sorts of things you can't imagine. People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that's a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that's all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it. These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, -too; cutting the unborn child from the mothers womb, and tossing babies up in the air and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mothers' eyes. Doing it before the mothers' eyes was what gave zest to the amusement. Here is another scene that I thought very interesting. Imagine a trembling mother with her baby in her arms, a circle of invading Turks around her. They've planned a diversion: they pet the baby, laugh to make it laugh. They succeed, the baby laughs. At that moment a Turk points a pistol four inches from the baby's face. The baby laughs with glee, holds out its little hands to the pistol, and he pulls the trigger in the baby's face and blows out its brains. Artistic, wasn't it? By the way, Turks are particularly fond of sweet things, they say."
Here Ivan mentions, almost without explanation stories he has heard of cruelties commited by the Turks against the Bulgarians. He uses these stories to illustrate the fact that men can be much more cruel then any animal can be, thus eliminating a possible model for the devil. If the devil was an invention, he must have been based off other men, and not off some cruel animal.
"Brother, what are you driving at?" asked Alyosha.
"I think if the devil doesn't exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness."
"Just as he did God, then?" observed Alyosha.
"'It's wonderful how you can turn words,' as Polonius says in Hamlet," laughed Ivan. "You turn my words against me. Well, I am glad. Yours must be a fine God, if man created Him in his image and likeness. You asked just now what I was driving at. You see, I am fond of collecting certain facts, and, would you believe, I even copy anecdotes of a certain sort from newspapers and books, and I've already got a fine collection."
Driving to the heart of the matter, Ivan says that man has created the Devil "in his own image and likeness." Alyosha immediately likens this to the theory that man has created God in a similar fashion.
It's at this point that Ivan first mentions his "collection" of stories. These stories, as we shall see, have a particular focus that has Ivan very troubled.
This passage is a little bit obscure, and it is difficult to understand all of Ivan's context-sensitive references. However, the point of this passage is quite clear: every society has manners of harming other people. Also, the ways that one society hurt people may seem to be barbaric to other societies, but all the methods are essentially equivalent.
Here Ivan recounts the story of a man named Richard, who was raised as an animal, and grew up to become a thief and a murderer. In prison, awaiting death, Richard is converted into a christian and educated in reading and writing. On the day of his execution, Richard is actually celebrating his own death as a holy act.
Here, Ivan discusses the story of a master and a horse. The horse is tired from pulling "too heavy a load", and stops pulling. The master, in a rage, lashes the horse and beats it repeatedly and for some time. Finally, having no untouched skin left to beat, the master lashes the horse on it's eyes. This finally motivated the horse to pull the load.
Ivan uses this story as an example that people experience satisfaction from inflicting pain, thus reinforcing his thesis that the Devil was created in the image of evil men.
In the same vein of the previous story, Ivan recounts now the story of a man and his wife beat their seven-year-old daughter with a birch rod. The beating lasted for more then 10 minutes, and grew harder and more savage as time went on.
When brought to court, instead of being punished for abusing their daughter, the couple is praised for properly correcting their child. As we shall see later, Ivan has a special place in his heart for abused children, and the stories he relates later focus more on them.