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 is the narrator characterized in "By the Waters of Babylon?"

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The narrator of this excellent short story is characterised as being a very curious individual who is hungry for more knowledge about the world that he lives in and in particular about the Old Days. He says that he is the son of a priest, and therefore his father has begun the process of initiating him into the ways of the priesthood. He has been taught various chants and spells and how to read and write the writings of "the gods," and this has made him happy to master such knowledge. However, it is clear from the opening paragraphs that this is not enough for him, as the following quote makes clear:

Nevertheless, my knowledge and my lack of knowledge burned in me—I wished to know more.

What defines the narrator above anything else, therefore, is his intense hunger and desire to learn more and understand more about the world around him, and in particular more about "the gods" and his and his race's relationship with them. This of course sets up the rest of the story, where the narrator will have a chance to satisfy his curiosity.

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