By the Waters of Babylon Characters
by Stephen Vincent Benét

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By the Waters of Babylon Characters

The main character and protagonist of the story is John—John is the 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 men of great knowledge and foresight. John himself has visions of the Dead Places, or the Place of the Gods, and his insatiable quest for knowledge about the gods leads him to travel to what he believes to be their realm—a forbidden and scary 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 Dead Place, even though it is forbidden. He understands that knowledge can be dangerous, but he does not appear to know why it can be dangerous. The danger of abusing knowledge is revealed to John once he explores the Dead Place himself and unravels its mysteries.

The other significant character in the story is the man John discovers in the post-apocalyptic city of New York and who he learns is not a god, but in fact, a man. The man lived and died in highly technological society where people’s insatiable quest for progress led to their destruction.