Last Updated on July 20, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 266
The main character and protagonist of the story is John, an archetypal hero who embarks on a journey, or quest, that leads to a revelation about life and death and the fate of the world. John is the son of a priest, and he belongs to a tribe called the Hill People. The Hill People are portrayed as possessing great knowledge and foresight. John himself has dreams of the Dead Places, in particular the Place of the Gods, and his quest to understand these dreams leads him to travel to what he believes to be the realm of the gods—a forbidden and frightening place that holds secrets only the priests can know.
John’s father is a minor character in the story, also a priest, and he provides guidance to his son and encourages him to follow his vision and travel to the Place of the Gods, even though it is forbidden. He understands that knowledge can be dangerous. The danger of abusing knowledge is fully revealed to John once he explores the Place of the Gods himself and unravels its mysteries.
The other significant character in the story is the man whose statue John discovers in the post-apocalyptic city of New York and who he eventually learns is not a god, but was, in fact, a man. The statue's inscription reads "ASHING," and unbeknownst to John, the statue's face is that of George Washington. This ruined statue of the man John calls ASHING is a relic of a highly technological society in which people’s insatiable thirst for progress led to their destruction.
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