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

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What does this quote mean from "By the Waters of Babylon"? "Truth is a hard deer to hunt. If you eat too much truth at once, you may die of the truth."

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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 "Dead Place" and learned the terrible truth of his reality. The denizens of these places were no gods at all, but simply technologically-advanced humans who wiped themselves out, presumably with nuclear weapons. Slowly, John begins to understand that his rule-breaking journey was not at all unique to him and that many priests before him had also gone to see the Dead Places, consumed by curiosity.

Understandably, John has an initial difficulty in reconciling with the false nature of his culture. However, his father tells him that

Truth is a hard deer to hunt. If you eat too much truth at once, you may die of the truth.

John begins to understand that a revelation of this magnitude might simply be too painful for a society at large to accept, at least all at once. The truth is everything to John, but...

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