In "By the Waters of Babylon," what are 5 things John sees in the place of the gods?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this story, the "Place of the Gods" refers to the ruins of New York City. John sees many things that had been produced by the ancients, including both large, structural features, and small, everyday objects. Here is a list of some of these.

1. "High towers of the gods" and other buildings

John notes that "everywhere there are the ruins of the high towers of the gods," and notes that "all the towers are not all broken—here and there one still stands…" At one point, he describes the ruins of a "great temple" that the knowledgeable reader can identify as Grand Central Station:

"A mighty temple it must have been, for the roof was painted like the sky at night with its stars…"

2. The broken statue of "ASHING"

John describes what the reader can recognize as a damaged monument to George Washington. He discovers a "shattered image of a man or god" made of white stone. The figure has its hair "tied back like a woman's," and a broken piece of stone reads "ASHING," a fragment of the name "WASHINGTON."

3. A bathroom and its fixtures

John enters an apartment and discovers what he calls a "washing-place"—evidently a bathroom. He describes a faucet (with labels for "Hot" and "Cold"), but he doesn't understand what it once was.

4. A living room full of "riches"

John is impressed by the many luxurious goods he discovers in the living room of the apartment. These include floor coverings, chairs "very soft and deep," and "very strange, very wonderful" pictures on the wall.

5. Books

John says he found "books and writings, many in tongues that I could not read."

Of course, in addition to seeing these structures and objects, John also saw the dead man—a discovery that led him to conclude that the ancients "had been men, neither gods nor demons." And he made a number of observations on his trip that contradicted his beliefs about the "Place of the Gods."  For example, when he stepped off his raft onto the ground, he discovered that it didn't burn him—disproving tales that "the ground there burns forever."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

1.  Wild packs of dogs that follow him everywhere, along with other wild animals.

2.  Books.  He was awed by all of the books, written "in tongues that I could not read", and he concludes that their owner must have sought wisdom, just as he is.

3.  Ruins of the city, including "great caves and tunnel" that used to be subway stations.  Also, he found ruined sculptures of once great men, a god "Ashing", which was a statue of George Washington.

4.  "There were pictures upon the walls, very strange, very wonderful".  He describes the pictures being just specks of color up close, but forming flowers from far away, and they made his heart feel "strange".

5.  The dead man.  It led to his great realization that these were not gods, "They were men -- they went a dark road, but they were men".  This revelation was life-changing, not only for him, but for everyone, because he concludes that they can now "make a beginning."  It will reshape their lifestyle, beliefs, customs, and traditions.  This is the most important discovery of them all, and he takes that knowledge back with him to his people.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial