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

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What are the dead places and the place of the gods in "By the Waters of Babylon?"

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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 of nuclear bomb because “fire fell out of the sky.”  It killed all of the people, but left the world inhabitable.  The people who live in the forest are the post-apocalyptic society.  They view us as Gods, until John comes to New York (newyork) and realizes that we are just people who all died out.

The people go into the Dead Places, or the cities that used to be inhabited, such as New York, to salvage metal.  Only priests can go into these places because they are considered holy sites since they are inhabited by the Gods, in other words, us.  There are still skeletons in them, but John is not allowed to touch them.

After a time, I myself was allowed to go into the dead houses and search for metal. So I learned the ways of those houses—and if I saw bones, I was no longer afraid.

John is one of the People of the Hills.  It is forbidden to go east to the Place of the Gods, newyork, but John has a dream and wants to go there.  After all, he is learning to be a priest like his father.  There, he sees what were once roads, and cities.  Inside one of the houses, he sees a "dead god" just sitting in one of the houses.

You could see that he would have not run away. He had sat at his window, watching his city die—then he himself had died.

John decides to go back and tell everyone that these people were not gods at all.  They were just people that died.  He is not afraid to tell his people about the men, because he knows the truth about newyork, and his people should know too.

This story tells us a sad tale of what our future might look like.  If we continue to destroy ourselves with technology, then we are going to end up like the gods in this story.  

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