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

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How does the use of dramatic irony in "By the Waters of Babylon" suggest the loss of knowledge that may occur when a civilization falls?

Dramatic irony occurs when readers know what characters in a work of literature do not. In this story, we know that the Place of the God is New York City. We understand the technologies of elevators, running water, and central heating, though John does not. The gap between our knowledge and John's is so wide that we realize the loss of knowledge can be profound when a civilization falls.

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Dramatic irony occurs when readers of a story know something that the characters do not.

In "By the Waters of Babylon," we realize when John takes his journey to the Place of the Gods that he has come to the ruins of New York City. Clues include its island location, its many tall towers, a shattered statue of "ASHING" representing George Washington, and the "great caves and tunnels" of a subway system.

John realizes from his exploration that the...

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