“By the Waters of Babylon” is a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet , well- known as a post-apocalyptic short story. The Story took place in a community of people called “the people of the hills”. “John” who was the son of a priest loved to gain more knowledge about the place of the gods (an area east of the river where supposedly the gods live. ) The people of hills were told that traveling to the place of the gods was forbidden. Anyway, John began his journey one day by fasting and waiting for a sigh of where he should go. After several signs, they all pointed to the east.
He crossed the river known as ou-dis-sun on a raft and headed toward the place of the gods. The place of the gods had many towers, buildings and streets called god-roads. He then headed north on a god-road towards a building called a dead house. In the house he notices that in the home there were places to cook, but nowhere to put fire. He also noticed that there is a bathing place, but no water. At that night, he went asleep. He dreamed he saw the gods, and how the Place of the gods used to be. He then saw in his dream how the great burning had destroyed the world.
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He then finally realized that the gods he and his people had been devoted to were not gods, but men. So, he returned to his father and told him what he saw. His father reassured him and told him that he had to find out the truth little by little so that they will not again destroy themselves. When John became the chief priest, he planned to take his people back to the place of the gods and build again. “John” is not only the main character of the story, but he is also the narrator of the story too, as we know everything through his point of view.
He is a good and brave boy as we can see from his words that shows knowledge is more important for him than his own life. He is not afraid when he knows that where he is going to will bring death. Anyway, he is also a dynamic character, caused by knowledge and experiences he finds for himself. In the end, John vows to bring his people back to rebuild it. This shows the strength of John’s spirit, representing for human spirit too. The setting and symbol are very important to the story.
When we read the story at first, we may think that the setting is somewhere in the ancient city, but if we read it again and again, we may find that “The place of the gods” is like a city in the North of the United Stated, as seen from the word "ASHING" which may presumed to be a statue of George wASHINGton, when John walks through a building with stars on the ceiling and tunnels, this may be Grand Central Terminal, the place called the Biltmore, may be the New York Biltmore Hotel, and the great cliffs, may be presumed to be the Brooklyn Bridge.
These show the use of symbol in the story, and the destruction of the city is also symbolic, important one that shows the important theme of the story. Apart from these, there are also the use of personification, irony, metaphor and imagery of vision and auditory that the writer uses to tell this story. So, I think the most important theme of this story is “the effects of knowledge”.
The destruction reflects the present world that many nations compete to one another to have the great power by using their knowledge which is the most important source to give human power to do both better things and worse things. It shows human’s ability too. This story reminds us that we should use over knowledge in the good way for there would not be the great destruction like “the place of the gods”, and our knowledge can protect us from the great loss, like those that our world used to face in the past.
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