Towers, which readers will recognize as skyscrapers, are the defining feature of the Place of the Gods, making it remarkably different from any landscape that John has ever seen before. As architectural marvels, the towers represent the power, “magic,” and technological prowess of the “gods”—and the pinnacle of human achievements. The ruined towers, then, symbolize the downfall of a past society—a downfall brought about because that society gained too much knowledge too quickly. The destruction of the towers of “newyork” also recalls the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel from the book of Genesis: when people attempted to build a tower tall enough to reach Heaven, they over-stepped the natural boundaries set for them by God. As punishment, God dispersed them across the earth and gave them different languages so that they could no longer work together to build the tower. In much the same way, the few survivors of the Great Burning have dispersed and formed rival tribes (the Hill People and the Forest People) who have lost the knowledge and technological skills that their ancestors once had.
Towers Quotes in By the Waters of Babylon
When gods war with gods, they use weapons we do not know. It was fire falling out of the sky and a mist that poisoned. It was the time of the Great Burning and the Destruction. […] Then the towers began to fall. A few escaped—yes, a few. The legends tell it. But, even after the city had become a Dead Place, for many years the poison was still in the ground. […] It was darkness over the city and I wept.