In "By the Waters of Babylon," how does John's tribe view the Dead Places?

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John’s tribe, including priests like his father, is very fearful of the Dead Places and Place of the Gods. No one is allowed to travel east towards this area because of its dangers. Although the priests and John comb the Dead Places close to their tribe for metal, they are not allowed to go beyond the river that separates them from the Place of the Gods. The metal kills those who are not priests and must be purified to be used; however, the metal’s effects seems to be stronger in the Place of the Gods. John’s father tells him that “It is forbidden to travel east. It is forbidden to cross the river. It is forbidden to go to the Place of the Gods.” When John has dreams drawing him to seek out the Gods, his father can only let him go because it is a journey he knows John must make. John’s father, however, is not expecting him to return from the Place of the Gods because it is dangerous and deadly. John, too, expects to die, but feels he must make the journey to see what the Place of the Gods is. He says, “I knew I was meant to go east—I knew that was my journey.” At the end, John does return home to tell his tribe that the Gods were mere men who were destroyed during the Great Burning—a nuclear war in the past.