Benét builds the central narrative of “By the Waters of Babylon” around John’s coming-of-age and his quest for new knowledge, which takes him east to The Place of the Gods, a mysterious, long-abandoned city that members of his tribe are forbidden from visiting.
Benét presents the desire for knowledge as a key aspect of human nature and the driving force behind the development of human society. Further, Benét presents knowledge as something that feeds…(read full theme analysis)
The story’s narrative centers on the journey that John takes to the Place of the Gods as part of his initiation into manhood and the tribe’s priesthood. John’s journey is a good example of the “hero’s quest,” an archetypal story arc that is common in both ancient myths and modern stories. The “coming-of-age” journey of the hero’s quest often contains certain archetypal elements, and John’s journey has many of these. These elements include time spent…(read full theme analysis)
The rivalry depicted in the story between the Hill People and the Forest People is based on differences that may, at first glance, strike readers as insignificant. Early in the essay, John says, “our women spin wool on the wheel, our priests wear a white robe. We do not eat grubs from the tree, we have not forgotten the old writings.” The apparent triviality of these differences has two important, and related, impacts. First, it…(read full theme analysis)