Does John's dad, the priest, keep any secrets throughout the story in By the Waters of Babylon?

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lusie0520 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is safe to assume that John’s father, the priest, does keep some secrets. At the beginning of the story, John says, “A priest must know many secrets—that was what my father said.” He talks about the fact that his father taught him how to read in the old books, and how to make the old writings. His father seems to know about the metal in the old houses and about stopping the blood running from a wound. When John goes to his father to tell him about his dream, his father seems concerned and tells him,” It is forbidden to travel east. It is forbidden to cross the river. It is forbidden to go to the Place of the Gods. All these things are forbidden." He tells him that his dream may, “eat him up.” Though we cannot be sure, it seems as if John’s father knows more about the Place of the Gods than he is letting on.

When John returns after seeing the Place of the Gods, which is, of course, meant to be New York City after a nuclear explosion, he tells his father the “gods” were just men. His father listens to his story, but when John says they must tell the people, his father replies, “He said, "Truth is a hard deer to hunt. If you eat too much truth at once, you may die of the truth. It was not idly that our fathers forbade the Dead Places." The reader has an idea now that John’s father may have known more, but perhaps he did not want to tell what he knew for fear people would not be able to understand it. His son comes to this understanding, as well: “Perhaps, in the old days, they ate knowledge too fast.”

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By the Waters of Babylon

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