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afi80fl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the things that hold John back in "By the Waters of Babylon" are the fact that he is venturing to the Great Dead place (formerly New York City).  According to tribal legend, one must be a priest to collect objects, especially metal, from dead places.  The Great Dead Place was strictly forbidden, due to the powerful "magic" that was there.  While John is the son of a priest, he is not yet a priest.  This trip is designed to test him; either he'll come back a priest, or die trying.

Another thing that holds him back is the fact that it's a very long journey, and he must pass through some dangerous places.  An unfriendly tribe stands between him and the Great Dead Place.  Also, he must cross the Hudson River (you can tell that's the name of the river by knowing that the Hudson is the major river in New York, and by sounding out the phonetically skewed tribal name for it). 

There's a lot holding him back, but what's even more interesting is what prevents him from telling anyone but his father about the fact that the Great Dead Place wasn't inhabited by gods, but rather, mere men like him. 

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By the Waters of Babylon

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