By the Waters of Babylon Questions and Answers

By the Waters of Babylon

The phrase "by the waters of Babylon" is an allusion to Psalm 137, in which the Israelites mourn their exile from Jerusalem and weep over their memory of their lost homeland. The waters of Babylon...

Latest answer posted September 25, 2020 11:04 am UTC

4 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

I would argue that the main theme in "By the Waters of Babylon" is the thirst for knowledge. Unlike other members of the Hill People community, our protagonist, John, is dissatisfied with the rule...

Latest answer posted October 1, 2020 3:29 pm UTC

4 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

John's view of the world changes as he progresses through his journey. When the story first begins, John accepts the world as it has been taught to him. He accepts the rules of his society, and...

Latest answer posted March 22, 2016 10:09 pm UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

"By the Waters of Babylon" has two settings. The entire story takes place in the future, after a nuclear holocaust has destroyed the advanced technological civilization of people like us. The...

Latest answer posted September 28, 2018 5:24 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

This story is recounted in the first person by a young man living in a simple, post-apocalyptic society. His people, the Hill People, appear to make a living by hunting, gathering, and animal...

Latest answer posted October 12, 2016 7:13 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

In this story, the "Place of the Gods" refers to the ruins of New York City. John sees many things that had been produced by the ancients, including both large, structural features, and small,...

Latest answer posted October 15, 2016 8:58 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

The title of the story is an allusion to Psalm 137 from the Bible. By the waters, the waters of BabylonWe sat down and wept,and wept, for thee, Zion. The passage is a lament by the Israelite...

Latest answer posted September 23, 2016 12:31 am UTC

3 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

The things that John is really seeing are remnants of the once-bustling city of New York. We know that John crosses the Hudson to get to a city with tall buildings, and before even seeing the city...

Latest answer posted September 22, 2016 1:31 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

The story's being narrated in the first person means that readers only know what John chooses to tell us or show us. As readers, we are limited to John. We know his thoughts and emotions, but we...

Latest answer posted September 4, 2017 8:08 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

The quote from John's father is basically telling John to be careful with the truth. John has learned that the great city that he explored wasn't inhabited by gods. It was inhabited by normal men...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2017 3:58 pm UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

UBTREAS is part of a broken sign that once said SUBTREASURY. John encounters it when he's exploring New York City in Stephen Vincent Benét's "By the Waters of Babylon." When John ventures into New...

Latest answer posted November 1, 2017 12:56 pm UTC

3 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

"Ashing" is the name on the base of the statue of one of the "gods" in the Place of the Gods, the forbidden and mysterious goal of the main character in the post-apocalyptic short story written by...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2009 3:57 am UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

John is the son of a priest; therefore, John is chosen to receive special treatment and training. As part of his education, John must go on a journey by himself. When I was a man at last, I came...

Latest answer posted September 20, 2016 1:19 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

John uses the Forest People as a standard by which to judge his own group, the Hill People. While humanity seems to have become more primal since the nuclear holocaust that wiped out civilization,...

Latest answer posted May 29, 2020 11:37 pm UTC

3 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

John saw a vision of the Dead Place where the gods walked that used to be New York. John’s world is one that exists in a post-apocalyptic version of Earth, after the Great Burning. It is never...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2015 10:54 pm UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

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...

Latest answer posted May 8, 2020 11:53 am UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

The Dead Places and Places of the Gods are cities where humans lived before the apocalypse. There was some kind of apocalyptic event, which is known as the Great Burning. It was probably some kind...

Latest answer posted September 25, 2015 11:30 pm UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

The Place of the Gods was a great city of great "magic" that existed generations ago and that John's people, the "People of the Hills," now revere as sacred. The name of this place, which John's...

Latest answer posted September 23, 2016 1:19 am UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

As John crosses the forbidden river of to "the Place of the Gods, with its “bitter waters,” he is actually crossing the Hudson River (“Oudis-sun”); the “god-roads ”he has followed were originally...

Latest answer posted September 21, 2008 2:26 am UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

In my opinion, the four directions do not have four separate meanings. I think that the only direction that really has a specific significance is the east. The east represents knowledge and the...

Latest answer posted June 30, 2010 12:20 am UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

John and his father go to the Dead Places. John's father comes out with a piece of metal and hands it to John. John doesn't die, so he get to become a priest. John learns a lot of stuff. How to...

Latest answer posted October 1, 2015 12:56 am UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

It has almost a fable-like mood to it, like someone is telling a tale or a story to small children around the kindergarten rug. Simple language is used, which is consistent with the tribe-like...

Latest answer posted March 16, 2009 12:34 pm UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

First of all, we have situational irony in the story. This is where there's a gap between what we expect to happen and what actually does happen. In By the Waters of Babylon we are surprised to...

Latest answer posted May 27, 2020 11:33 am UTC

4 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

On the surface, John's father says very little about the dream, and his words seem to send a mixed message: John should follow his intuition about the dream, yet remember that travelling east is...

Latest answer posted August 12, 2017 6:04 am UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

The great river in the story "By the Waters of Babylon" is the Hudson River. The Hudson River is the river separating parts of New York from New Jersey. Most notably, the river separates...

Latest answer posted July 13, 2016 3:32 am UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

"Eating knowledge too fast" is an excellent metaphorical description of the failings of mankind in the dystopian world of this short story. It brings to mind a picture of someone absolutely...

Latest answer posted April 26, 2010 9:28 am UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

This quote is spoken by John's father, who is also a priest in the post-apocalyptic society in which John lives. John has just returned from his fated pilgrimage wherein he entered the forbidden...

Latest answer posted January 17, 2020 8:01 pm UTC

4 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

John realizes that the “gods” are just humans who were killed by the Great Burning. There was some kind of catastrophic apocalyptic event in John’s world that turned New York City into a wasteland....

Latest answer posted July 6, 2016 3:40 am UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

I would describe John as young. He refers to himself early in the story as the son of a priest. He thinks of himself, first, as somebody's son. I believe that makes John fairly young. I would...

Latest answer posted October 11, 2016 1:29 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

Probably my favorite symbolic image from this story is the Place of the Gods. I like this symbolic image because it changes its symbolism at the end of the story. For most of the story, the Place...

Latest answer posted September 27, 2017 8:22 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

An allusion is a reference to something famous. It can be a poem, a piece of art, an event or in this case a location. The allusion in this title is the name of an ancient city, Babylon. This city...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2010 6:52 am UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

There are many conflicts throughout this short story. One of the first conflicts that readers encounter is the conflict that John has within himself. He feels a deep desire and pull to go east,...

Latest answer posted June 12, 2017 1:42 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

John has returned from the Place of the Gods—what we would understand as New York City—having realized that it was built by men, not gods. This revelation excites him as it means his people, too,...

Latest answer posted April 19, 2019 9:19 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

I think the first thing to note before we imagine John telling the Hill People about his journey is his father's warning at the end of the story: "Truth is a hard deer to hunt. If you eat too much...

Latest answer posted August 6, 2019 2:47 am UTC

3 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

John learns that the gods "were men -- they went a dark road, but they were men". He realizes how advanced they were, but also how they destroyed each other. This is significant...

Latest answer posted January 2, 2009 2:24 pm UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

The story takes place in the future. There has been some kind of apocalypse called the Great Burning. All we know about the Great Burning is that “fire fell out of the sky.” We do know that...

Latest answer posted June 24, 2016 5:45 pm UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

The narrative point of view of "By the Waters of Babylon" is first person. Readers get their first bit of evidence of the story's point of view in the first paragraph. The narrator, who we...

Latest answer posted December 28, 2017 1:52 am UTC

3 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

The answer to this question can be found in the final paragraphs of the story. The first thing that happens is he rejoins his father, and then John prays and is purified. John's father is quite...

Latest answer posted June 29, 2018 1:30 pm UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

The Great Burning was a nuclear war that destroyed the huge city known by John as the Place of the Gods. There are several clues we can use to infer this from the story. First of all, the metal...

Latest answer posted March 5, 2016 3:25 am UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

The three things that John and members of his society have forbidden are named in the very first paragraph of the story. It is forbidden to go east. It is forbidden to go to the Dead Places...

Latest answer posted April 18, 2016 2:12 am UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

John's innoeent and somewhat naive perspective in "By the Waters of Babylon" forces reader to eye his journey through the fallen remains of our own modern society through a fresh pair of eyes. John...

Latest answer posted October 17, 2012 3:22 am UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

The purpose of "By the Waters of Babylon" is to highlight the nature of human ambition and the inevitable conflict it engenders. In the story, John is taught that he must honor the laws of his...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2017 2:43 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

John says this line as he is looking at the Place of the Gods. He has reached his destination, and he is actually trying to convince himself that he has done good enough. He's trying to convince...

Latest answer posted July 17, 2016 9:20 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

I think mshurn is right in identifying how John transmits the knowledge he has learnt on to his people. How and when. The short story ends with John's father counselling his son to not reveal what...

Latest answer posted April 30, 2010 1:41 pm UTC

3 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

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...

Latest answer posted November 10, 2016 9:25 pm UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

In my view, the answer to this question is “yes.” In other words, “By the Waters of Babylon” can be either a story of optimism or a story of pessimism. It really depends on the attitude of the...

Latest answer posted November 4, 2015 2:48 pm UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

I've seen support for two possible climax locations in "By the Waters of Babylon." They happen just about at the same time chronologically, so I don't feel that there is much difference between the...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2016 1:41 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

There are two questions being asked here. The first is about how the previous civilization came to its ultimate destruction. Unfortunately, we are not specifically told how the "gods" all died...

Latest answer posted January 18, 2019 3:35 pm UTC

2 educator answers

By the Waters of Babylon

First, there are clues that John's father is interested in secular learning, and that his private positions on religious matters are not the same as his public positions. This suggests that he may...

Latest answer posted October 14, 2016 3:47 am UTC

1 educator answer

By the Waters of Babylon

John returns to his people from the Place of the Gods profoundly changed by the experience. He now knows that the beings he thought were gods are—or were—actually simply humans just like him. As...

Latest answer posted August 4, 2019 1:43 am UTC

1 educator answer

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