What is the theme of this quote 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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lusie0520 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To understand this quotation, we must look at what is going on in the story up to this point.  John, the main character, essentially goes on a quest.  Because he is a member of a primitive civilization, he believes in signs, and all the signs tell him to go to the City of the Gods.  When he arrives, he sees things that help the reader to know he is in a post-apocalyptic (caused by a nuclear bomb, most likely) place.  Everything John tells us leads us to that conclusion: the twisted and broken “god-roads,”  the dogs that chase him, the places he visits that are clearly New York. 

John’s revelation about the city is this:  It is a city of men, not gods.  He reaches this conclusion when he finds a man in the apartment he is sleeping in.  Also, he has a dream that shows the men moving at a very fast pace, then being obliterated.  He also finds many books and gadgets that fascinate him.

John goes home, very excited, to tell his dad the news.  John wants everyone to know the truth and to visit the city.  His father, on the other hand, is not so sure.  Having lived a long time, he knows all the stories of death and destruction in the City of the Gods.  When he says, “Truth is a hard deer to hunt.  If you eat too much truth at once you may die of the truth.”  The meaning of the quote is rooted in the idea of the post-apocalyptic society.  Are we ever really sure what truth is?  Where to find it?  Whether it is cloaked in lies?  The society that John saw in his dream was successful.   Man was finding all sorts of truths and using them to his advantage…until the truth killed him.  So, in other words, the author is making the point that perhaps not being quite so technological is a good thing.  Ironically, John, at the end of the story, suggests to us that he will definitely go back and explore once his father has gone.  The cycle of men, too curious for their own good, starts all over.

vnessawong21 | Student

Like a deer, truth is hard to find and is often elusive. Also, if someone kills a deer and eats too much of it, he or she would feel sick and ill. 

Truth is undeniably a good thing that everyone needs; just like deer meat for hungry people. However, when people are exposed to too much truth it can harm them just like eating too much deer meat. Consider the breakup of a long relationship. When the truth is told, "I just don't love you any more", the one hearing the truth is hurt. When a child finds out why they were put up for adoption, they may feel rejection of a horrible kind. Adopted children may fantasize about a parent being too poor to care properly for them, and giving them up to a loving, caring couple. To hear, "I didn't want you" would make you as sick as if you have eaten the whole Thanksgiving turkey by yourself. Trying to continue living a normal life after that would take a lot of effort after that kind of rejection.

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By the Waters of Babylon

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