In the short story “By the Waters of Babylon,” the protagonist, John, decides to travel east. This decision goes against everything his people believe.
At the beginning of the story, we are told east is a forbidden direction for John’s people. The first line of the story tells us that
The north and the west and the south are good hunting ground, but it is forbidden to go east.
Later on in the story, this idea is reemphasized. After John has his dream, his father blesses him and then reminds him
It is forbidden to travel east. It is forbidden to cross the river. It is forbidden to go to the Place of the Gods. All these things are forbidden.
Of course, these reminders simply serve to set up what John is about to do. John is going to upend his people’s beliefs. He is going to travel east to the Place of the Gods, and he is going to learn things that will change his society.
After his father blesses him and warns him not to go east, John sees three signs that tell him he must go east. He sees an eagle flying towards the east. He sees three deer, including a white fawn, moving east. A panther tries to kill the white fawn, but John is able to kill it with one arrow through the eye. All these signs tell him something. He says,
Then I knew I was meant to go east—I knew that was my journey.