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

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What is the theme of "By the Waters of Babylon"?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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An important theme of this story is progress. In the story, society is depicted as having regressed to a much more "primitive" level after a nuclear holocaust. When John realizes that the magnificent dead city he visits (that we readers recognize as New York) was built by men, not gods, the possibility of change and progress suddenly bursts to life for him. His people, too, can some day rise to greatness, he thinks, because humans just like them did so in the past. However—and this is the most important part of progress—John also accepts the wisdom of his father: that too much change too fast can be lethal. When John wants to tell his people the truth that the gods were really men, his father counsels caution, saying:

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

The wisdom John comes to understand is that perhaps the earlier society learned too much too fast, and this destroyed them. The story invites us to ponder progress and to...

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irishgirlsrock | Student

I absolutely agree with the answer above. At first I thought it could be knowledge leads to truth... But There's a price for knowledge is definitely more accurate....