How does Benet use setting to create a mood of suspense and hold our interest? What does this setting reveal about John's character?

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"By the Waters of Babylon " creates suspense by slowly and carefully revealing to the reader that the "primitive" society in which John operates is actually a handful of remaining humans that survived a presumably nuclear-based apocalyptic event. It reveals that this event took place in our own world,...

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"By the Waters of Babylon" creates suspense by slowly and carefully revealing to the reader that the "primitive" society in which John operates is actually a handful of remaining humans that survived a presumably nuclear-based apocalyptic event. It reveals that this event took place in our own world, and that the "gods" referenced by the narration are actually humans of the modern world. The reader is first given hints of this when we are told that it is the priest's job to collect metal, meaning that the society is ascribing some sort of practical or spiritual significance to the leftovers of industrial society.

We learn that "the land of the gods" is actually just the ruins of a metropolitan area through John's courage. The setting reveals that John is the very essence of the positive aspects of humanity. While John is reverent and respectful towards his society, being "the son of a priest," he also has an insatiable curiosity for the unknown that cannot be extinguished by fear or superstition. Though the story is a grim look at the most wretched and self-destructive tendencies of humanity, we also know that humanity will endure in the story through the unshakable spirit of John and those like him.

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The setting seems like it takes place in the time before civilization advanced through industrialization. People seems primitive by our standards and very superstitious as well. Events are referred to with descriptive terms instead of names, such as the City of the Dead, the bitter waters, the gods, and the Great Burning. Clearly, these are not educated people, but hunter gatherer societies. Priests are the only ones allowed to go certain places and do certain things, like enter the city of the dead and touch metal. They are taught chants and words to keep them safe from the spirits. Just enough details keep the reader intrigued by references to things that people of such a primitive nature would not have or know.

John, though primitive by our standards of knowledge today, has enough learning to make him challenge the forbidden things in his culture. His inquisitive nature and the fire in his mind and heart make him a character that will advance or die trying. He is prepared to die for his violations of the forbidden, but he pushes on. He is both courageous and far-seeing.

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