In what ways is the author, Benet, criticizing our society in "By the Waters of Babylon"?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"By the Waters of Babylon" is definitely a critique of modern culture, particularly the quality of human life as shown by John's visions of the Place of the Gods:

"That was a sight indeed—yes, that was a sight: I could not have seen it in the body—my body would have died. Everywhere went the gods, on foot and in chariots—there were gods beyond number and counting and their chariots blocked the streets."

From John's amazed wonderment, the reader sees modern humanity; John is clearly impressed by the breadth of their number and chariots, but the reader also has the insight to understand that his vision is one of traffic and over-crowding.  Later John also observes that these gods were:

"Restless, restless, were the gods and always in motion! They burrowed tunnels under rivers—they flew in the air. With unbelievable tools they did giant works—no part of the earth was safe from them..."

Benet's story really portrays the restless and unsatisfied aspect of modern culture.  Always on the move and in a hurry, the gods' existence is hurried, lacking peace and contentment.  Ultimately, their quick-paced lives and restlessness leads to war and destruction.  "By the Waters of Babylon" offers the power of hindsight to modern society from the perspective of a naive young man, trying to understand and appreciate the greatness of a culture that was also incredibly self-destructive.


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