What does John believe will happen to him if he travels to the Place of the Gods?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John believes that he will die if he travels to 'The Place of The Gods.' However, if he decides not to fulfill his destiny, John believes that his spirit will never be at rest. He decides that it is better for him to risk losing his life than his spirit.

John is the son of a priest. After studying for the priesthood under the tutelage of his father, he has to undergo the necessary initiation rites. His final initiation rite is the journey of discovery he has to take for himself. When he reveals to his father his vision of a 'great Dead Place' where he sees gods walking, his father is worried, but gives his blessing for John's journey. He tells his son that he will let him go despite it being forbidden to travel east to 'The Place Of The Gods.'

When he enters the great Dead Place, he thinks there should have been 'wailings of spirits and the shrieks of demons,' but he hears nothing of the sort. Instead, he sees a city in ruins; he does not hunt when he is hungry, deciding instead to eat the food he finds in jars in an ancient temple in the middle of the city.

When wild dogs emerge out of nowhere and wait for him, he decides to seek refuge in an ancient house. He discovers and is stunned by the grandeur of this dead House. He falls asleep in one of the big rooms after building a fire to keep warm. In the night, he has an out of body experience and sees a grand vision of the city as it once was, in all its glory. He also sees the frightening sight of the Burning and the destruction of the city and its inhabitants; he witnesses the last of the people die.

Eventually, he sees what he thinks is a dead god sitting by a window of the great house. On closer inspection, he sees that it is neither god nor demon, but what used to be a living man. He imagines that this man died with his spirit proud and intact. When he goes back to his people, his father tells him not to burden their people with too much knowledge at once. He advises him to teach at the rate the people are able to absorb all the implications of everything John has found at 'The Place Of The Gods.'

Read the study guide:
By the Waters of Babylon

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