By the waters of babylon

Stephen Vincent Benet
References Psalm 137 in the Bible
Isrealites’ sorrow over the
destruction of their temple in Zion
and their enslavement into Babylon
The psalm begins “By the waters of
Babylon, there we sat down and
wept, when we remembered Zion”
1st person point of view
Limited knowledge given to the
reader from this point of view. Only
seeing what that character sees and
The mood of a story is the
atmosphere the author helps create
to make the reader feel a certain
Remember that tone is not the same
thing as mood. Tone is the writer’s
own attitude toward the subject.
Symbols can often be found in literature.
Symbols stand for something bigger and
provide a deeper meaning.
Think of some symbols in our everyday lives.
What does a 4-leaf clover usually symbolize?
What does a skull and crossbones usually
As you read this story, look for
Try to pick out things the narrator
sees that may stand for something
Simile is a comparison between two unlike
things using like or as
There was a roaring in my ears like the rushing of
Metaphor is a comparison between two unlike
things without using like or as. Metaphors
state that one thing IS another thing.
Truth is a hard deer to hunt.
The author uses descriptive words
to paint a mental picture in the
reader’s mind.
As you read “By the Waters of
Babylon”, what mental pictures do
you get from the imagery the author
uses. How do you see the great
cities and god-roads?
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. The priests
of John’s people are inquisitive "scientists"
associated with the divine. 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. The plot follows
John’s self-assigned mission to get to the Place of
the Gods. His father allows him to go on a spiritual
journey, but does not know he is going to this
forbidden place.
John takes a journey 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. He
sees a statue of a "god" — in point of fact, a human — that
says "ASHING" on its base. He also sees a building
marked "UBTREAS". After being chased by dogs and
sleeping in someone's apartment, John sees a dead god.
Upon viewing the visage, he has an epiphany that the
gods were simply humans whose power overwhelmed
good judgment. After John returns to his tribe, he speaks
of the places "newyork" and "Biltmore". His father tells
him not to, for sometimes too much truth is a bad thing,
that it must be told little by little. The story ends with
John stating his conviction that, once he becomes the head
priest, "We must build again."

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