For most of the story "By the Waters of Babylon" a main conflict is John's lack of knowledge. Because the story is told from the first person, John almost never questions the glaring holes in his knowledge, but the reader is utterly confused at times. The first time I read the story, I couldn't figure out for quite some time if the story was in the past or the future. Once I figured out the story was in the future, it was even more frustrating not knowing why John and his people had lost so much knowledge. Why can't he go east? What is the place of the gods? Why can't they touch metal? The reader eventually figures out that the place of the gods is New York City, and John eventually figures out that the gods were not gods at all. The gods were simply men and women that lived in the city with great knowledge and all kinds of cool tech toys. John's vision of the past could be counted as the climax of the story. That climax very quickly leads the reader into the falling action and resolution to the story. The resolution is John returning to to his people and vowing to begin restoring all of their lost knowledge.
Nevertheless, we make a beginning. it is not for the metal alone we go to the Dead Places now— there are the books and the writings. They are hard to learn. And the magic tools are broken—but we can look at them and wonder. At least, we make a beginning. And, when I am chief priest we shall go beyond the great river. We shall go to the Place of the Gods—the place newyork—not one man but a company. . . We must build again.