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

By the Waters of Babylon book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Who are the gods in ''By the Waters of Babylon"?

Expert Answers info

Valentine England eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write812 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Stephen Vincent Benét's short story "By the Waters of Babylon" examines a post-apocalyptic world in which "the hill people," the presumed survivors of some sort of devastating disaster, lead their lives with distant respect for the gods. John, the story's protagonist and the son of a priest, embarks on a spiritual journey to the forbidden territory of the Place of the Gods. After a harrowing trip during which he is chased by dogs and must wander the land alone, John discovers a "dead god" in one of the buildings.

As it turns out, the "gods" in this story are actually the deceased victims (that is to say, ordinary humans) of the aforementioned disaster which destroyed civilization, and the Place of the Gods is the ruins of New York City. Although John has no context to fully understand these matters, his journey to this land makes him realize that it is necessary for the hill people to "build again."

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

In this story, the main character, John is going to go on a journey.  It is the last step in his process of becoming a priest.  On this journey, he will be going across the river to the Dead Place -- the Place of the Gods.

As we go along in the story, we figure out that the Place of the Gods is what used to be New York City.  If that is the Place of the Gods, then the gods must be the people who used to live there.  So, they gods in this story are the people who used to live in New York City before it somehow got depopulated.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial



incexx | Student

i think the gods here in the story are the leaders of the u.s.a bcause if u try 2 examine the story john saw a god named ashing and ashing came from the name george washington.