Rebellion and the Grand Inquisitor
Dostoevsky would remain at Staraya Russa until July 17, hard at work on his novel. He was then writing Book 5 of Part 2, “Pro and Contra,” which contains Ivan's rebellion against God's world and the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor. His life during this period was spent entirely tied to his desk, turning out chapter after chapter of his final masterpiece. To avoid misunderstandings that might lead to objections, and perhaps censorship, each section sent to his editor Lyubimov was accompanied by a letter of explanation. These provide a running self-commentary on his ideological and artistic aims that are unique in the corpus of his work.
On May 7, Dostoevsky sent off the first half of Book 5. He describes his intention as “the portrayal of the uttermost blasphemy and the seed of the idea of destruction in our time in Russia among the young people uprooted from reality, and, along with the blasphemy and anarchy—the refutation of them, which is now being prepared by me in the last words of the dying elder Zosima.” He characterizes these convictions of Ivan “as a synthesis of contemporary Russian anarchism. The rejection not of God, but of the meaning of His creation. All of Socialism has sprung from and began with the denial of the meaning of historical reality and ended in a program of destruction and anarchism.” 1
Dostoevsky reserved a separate book for Zosima's preachments; “Pro and Contra” thus refers only to the inner debate taking place in Ivan between his recognition of the moral sublimity of the Christian ideal and his outrage against a universe of pain and suffering (and on a world-historical scale, by his questioning of the moral foundations of both Christianity and Socialism in the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor). The Populists had restored the morality of the Christian God (independently of their own opinions about his divinity) that had been negated in the previous decade; and they were now applying it to his own creation. Indeed, they were rejecting “the meaning of historical reality” that he had presumably established in order to correct his work in light of the very Christian principles he had proclaimed. Ivan's protest against God's world is thus couched in terms of the Christian value of compassion—the very value that Dostoevsky
1PSS, 30/Bk. 1: 63; May 10, 1879.