By the Waters of Babylon Questions and Answers
by Stephen Vincent Benét

By the Waters of Babylon book cover
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In "By the Waters of Babylon," what is one detail where the reader knows more than John?

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In Stephen Vincent Benét's "By the Waters of Babylon," John, the protagonist, goes on a journey of discovery. This journey is how John will finally be a priest. After he kills a panther with a single shot through its eye and sees an eagle flying east, John decides that he should journey east, also. This means he will go to The Place of the Gods, which is forbidden by his tribe. 

When John reaches The Place of the Gods, it becomes apparent to readers fairly quickly that he is in an abandoned New York City. One way readers know this is by how John describes a broken statue he comes across.

There was also the shattered image of a man or a god. It had been made of white stone and he wore his hair tied back like a woman's. His name was ASHING, as I read on the cracked half of a stone. I thought it wise to pray to ASHING, though I do not know that god.

Based on this description, readers can figure out the statue is of George Washington. A well-known statue of George Washington is in Union Square in Manhattan, one of the five boroughs of New York City. This statue, combined with the "Ou-dis-son" river (Hudson River) and the remnants of a building labelled "UBTREAS" (a portion of Subtreasury, which is now known as Federal Hall) are details that help the reader know more about what is going on than John does.

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