How does John in the story "By the Waters of Babylon" compare to a classic hero?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, John is not really a classic hero.  This is because what he does is not something that will clearly help anyone else.

My understanding of a classic hero is that it must be a person who goes on a quest to achieve something that will help others.  The hero is also someone that we should look up to and strive to emulate.

Perhaps we should strive to emulate John.  He is brave and he is open-minded.  He does not give in to the superstitions of his society.  Instead, he goes ahead and tries to find things out for himself.  We value this sort of attitude.

But does John really help anyone?  It is not clear.  On the one hand, John may help his society become more modern.  He may help them have a better standard of living.  But when he brings back this idea that his people can become like the people from the old days, isn't he putting them back on the path that led to the destruction of New York City?  Isn't he committing them to developing technology that will, one day, be able to destroy cities?

I think that the author is trying to get us to think about whether technological development is always a good thing.  He is not setting John up as a classic hero.  Instead, he is asking us to decide whether John's actions will help or hurt his people.