He is destined to become a priest himself, and he proves his calling by setting aside his fear to gather metal with his father in the Dead Places. The narrator learns chants and spells from his father, but he also gains some more practical knowledge. He learns to stop a wound from bleeding and how to read and write the old writings. Most importantly, his father ignites a desire for learning in him. Eventually, the narrator becomes a man and a priest.
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Penlighten gives you a summary of the same. By The Waters of Babylon is a work of fiction that narrates about the self expedition undertaken by John, the son of a priest. He goes on to explore for himself the forbidden land which perhaps was brought to dust by a catastrophic Apocalypse long before in history.
It was magical and mysterious. The write-up is written as a short story, and is narrated in the first person. The narrator is John himself, who traversed on the forlorn path to acquire knowledge.
The backdrop is set at a time which is after a destructive war. He does things that are barred by his forefathers. The story narrates about his myriad experiences which he accumulated over time. His undying quest for knowledge and his inquisition to know the unknown, triggered him to follow a path of peril. He was there, very much alive to narrate all about his experience and newly acquired knowledge.
He started his solitary journey as an amateur traveler, and ended as a knowledgeable guide who possessed wisdom that was unheard of by people of his time.
He was therefore a learned priest. This article will summarize the many encounters John had during his voyage, the biggest encounter being his realization of truth, which was a total antithesis of the popular belief. Please read the following paragraphs given below to know about the message the writer leaves for us.
By The Waters of Babylon — Summary Setting the story The story begins by informing the reader about the list of things that are forbidden to be done by the commoners. The narrator of the story, John is the son of a priest and therefore is expected to become a priest. Through the story he says about the many things that he has done, and experienced.
It remained so, since time immemorial, until John broke the law and became an exception. It can be understood from the below given quote which comes in the opening paragraph of the story. These things are forbidden-they have been forbidden since the beginning of time.
Revelation of Power We also get to know that priesthood at that time was considered supreme. Therefore, they had the liberty and the rights to do things that were not to be done by the rest of the clan.
They were held in high esteem and they also had the power to perform tasks that were deemed impossible by the common man. According to them the priest is knowledgeable and wise, and his knowledge is to be limited only to himself.
Consider the following line. It is forbidden to go to any of the Dead Places except to search for metal and then he who touches the metal must be a priest or the son of a priest.
I was taught the chants and the spells-l was taught how to stop the running of blood from a wound and many secrets.
A priest must know many secrets-that was what my father said. Seeking Knowledge John belonged to a tribe that was not primitive or behind time. They were the people who were civilized and knew the importance of knowledge and did activities pertaining to the norms of civilization. They spun wool to make fabric, they hunted and they also read and write. But John was more inquisitive in nature.
He always took efforts to know more about the unknown. He had a hungry spirit that yearned to gather knowledge irrespective of the source of knowledge. This is evident from the conversation given below that he had with his father. I wished to know more. Give me your leave. Owing to the quest for knowledge, John was granted the permission to go on his expedition.
He was conferred priesthood, and thus began a maiden chapter in his eventful life. John set on this unusual journey after being blessed by his father in the following words. If your dreams do not eat you up, you may be a great priest. If they eat you, you are still my son. Now go on your journey. He was doubly sure that he was destined to go on the path that no one took. His resolve was now more intense. The great Discovery — Ou-dis-sun This was the mighty river that was not to be crossed.
It was deep and big. On the southern side was the Place of the Gods, the reason behind this expedition of John. But he held knowledge above everything. He was brave and fearless as expressed in the quote below. If I went to the Place of the Gods, I would surely die, but, if I did not go, I could never be at peace with my spirit again.
The Great Discovery — continued… John rowed across the river, swam across it, and was now right on the land of the Place of God. He now knew that contrary to the common belief that the land of the Place of God always kept burning, John was standing on a cold piece of land.
The place was also laden with the marks of the great destruction that had come over the place and reduced it to ashes.
There were, for sure, the marks of the burnt, and the ashes of the same. There were also towers and buildings which stood in ruins, though all not broken. There were untrod roads that grew grass, there were also nests of birds, and there were also schools of butterflies that flew around. John also found for himself a statue of a man whom he considered God or demigod. The following lines from the story testify it. I went there and looked about me-there was a carved stone with cut-letters, broken in half.
I can read letters but I could not understand these. There was also the shattered image of a man or a god. Arrived John was now in the mansion that housed the Gods. He was standing in the stark darkness of the night and found himself looking for answers and the ample knowledge which has drawn him so close to death.
I found it at last in the ruins of a great temple in the mid-city. Within the building he discovered many things that appeared strange to him. He saw there were lamps without oil and wick, he found there was some machine to cook food which had no firewood. He also discovered taps with no water. He found the elevator, and also an array of books that were not readable to him.
There were also photographs that hung from the walls, and there were paintings too. He was overwhelmed and thought to himself that he was in a magical place. The following lines from the story describe his state aptly.
There was a washing-place but no water-perhaps the gods washed in air. There was a cooking-place but no wood, and though there was a machine to cook food, there was no place to put fire in it.
Nor were there candles or lamps-there were things that looked like lamps but they had neither oil nor wick. All these things were magic, but I touched them and lived-the magic had gone out of them. Let me tell one thing to show. This must have been a strong magic but the magic was gone. I do not understand-they had ways-I wish that I knew.
The Great Revelation John had a vision in the dead of the night. John could see strings of light illuminating the city of the Gods, their towers and buildings and their roads. It was fascinating for him to see the marvel with his own eye. John saw the lives of the Gods. Their equipment eased out their lifestyle and their work. They had mighty ships to sail through the seas, they had the planes to fly across the sky. They were successful, they were mighty, they were invincible, they were magical, they were the Gods!
He saw them fight against each other with weapons he had never seen. There were explosions and noise. There was fire and smoke. He had never seen a fight such as this he was witnessing. There was devastation all around. This was the time of the Great Burning and the Destruction he was told about in his village.
There was this answer which he was looking for. Realization now dawned over him. He found the answer to the question he was searching for so long. They were not demons either. They were men just like him and his fellow villagers. He now conquered his fear, and received the great enlightenment.
By the Waters of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benet: Summary, Theme & Analysis
Tangibility The quest undertaken into the Place of the Gods is a trek across not just geographical space, but through the consciousness of history and knowledge and ignorance. As the odyssey unfolds, many of the truths that were naturally accepted as convention are revealed to be little more than myth. Forced into an experiential means of apprehending knowledge, the tangibility of the real world slowly eases the uncertain intangibility of mythology aside. The Two-Fold Aspect of Technological Progress Technology and the progress in civilization it represent is presented as dual-edged sword in the story. Technology is symbolized both as an ever-present potential for devastation and as knowledge worth pursuing. That the actual technological cause of the apocalypse creating the barren wasteland that is the setting of the tale is only obliquely identified with the specific details left to the imagination is beside the point. In the wrong hands even the most mundane and benign technology can become a powerful weapon and the book makes it clear that the evil bringing on the apocalypse was the machinery, but the human running it.
By the Waters of Babylon Themes
Plot summary[ edit ] Set in a future following the destruction of industrial civilization, the story is narrated by a young man  who is the son of a priest. They are the only ones who can handle metal collected from the homes called the "Dead Places" of long-dead people whom they believe to be gods. His father allows him to go on a spiritual journey, not realizing John is going to this forbidden place. John journeys through the forest for eight days and crosses the river Ou-dis-sun. Once John gets to the Place of the Gods, he feels the energy and magic there.
By the Waters of Babylon
Stephen Vincent Benét’s By The Waters of Babylon: Summary and Analysis