man standing off to the side looking down at a marble bust of another man laying atop a pile of broken columns

By the Waters of Babylon

by Stephen Vincent Benét

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How does John view the world in "By the Waters of Babylon"?

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John's view of the world changes as he progresses through his journey.  When the story first begins, John accepts the world as it has been taught to him.  He accepts the rules of his society, and he doesn't question them.  He knows that only priests get to touch metal and go into the Dead Places.  He accepts the fact that he is forbidden to go east, and he never questions why.  

After becoming a priest though, John's view of the world starts to change.  He begins to question the status quo.  

"All these things are forbidden," I said, but it was my voice that spoke and not my spirit. He looked at me again.

Just before the above quote, John's father reminded John that it is forbidden to go east.  The quote shows that John no longer firmly believes in that rule.  His heart (spirit) isn't in it anymore.  John is beginning to question why it is forbidden to go east.  

John does eventually go east, and he gets himself on Manhattan island.  While there he learns that the "gods" were not really gods at all.  They were normal every day people like him.  

—I knew then that they had been men, neither gods nor demons. It is a great knowledge, hard to tell and believe. They were men—they went a dark road, but they were men.

Knowing this information drastically changes John's worldview.  He believes that it is his duty to re-educate his people and begin restoring humanity to its former greatness.  He plans to do this by slowly reintroducing the lost knowledge that can be found in the city of the gods (New York). 

And, when I am chief priest we shall go beyond the great river. We shall go to the Place of the Gods—the place newyork—not one man but a company. We shall look for the images of the gods and find the god ASHING and the others—the gods Lincoln and Biltmore and Moses. But they were men who built the city, not gods or demons. They were men. I remember the dead man's face. They were men who were here before us. We must build again.

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