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

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What position does John hold among the hill people? What privileges and responsibilities arise from the position?   

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John is the son of a priest in his village.  Because he touched the metal handed to him by his father "and did not die", by his people's laws, John was then destined to become a priest himself.  As such, he was treated with more respect than his brothers who were destined to be hunters.  He was given the choice bits of meat at meals, as well as a warm spot near the fire for his bed.  However, because more was expected of John, he would be punished more severely for infractions than his brothers would be.  He was then allowed to go to the dead houses with his father to search of metal, and he was taught the secrets of the priesthood-- spells, chants, and healings.  It was expected that John would honor the ways of the Hill People in preparation for being a leader in his community one day.  When John learns the truth about the Place of the Gods (it was the ruins of New York City after being bombed), John's father expects the boy to keep the truth to himself.  Telling the people that their "gods" were merely men who'd been destroyed in a great war would have destroyed not only their belief system, but their political system as well.  Chaos would have been a result, and therefore, would have been detrimental to the society.

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