Literary Devices in "By the Waters of Babylon"

In the short story “By the Waters of Babylon” by Stephen Vincent Benet the author uses structure to impact the readers understanding of truth by using the literary device Foreshadowing and another literary device situation Irony. “It is forbidden to cross the Great river and look upon the place that was the place of the gods-This is the most strictly forbidden”. The author gives hints along the story that changes the readers perspective from what seems a long lost broken down civilization full of rituals from ancient time to an understanding that it’s based on the future after an event called “…The Great Burning” occurred.

The author creates an impact on the reader by engaging the person on a mindset of an understanding that completely is turned around. “The North and the West and the South are good hunting ground, but it is forbidden to go east. 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”.

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The author here starts painting a image in the readers mind of a time were people hunted and did rituals a time were you had to find valuables to survive like metal! Creating a connection in the readers mind of ancient civilization. Making a focus on the forbidden places allows the reader to further engage trying to understand what will happen next causing suspense, but also keeping in mind what was being hunted was metal causing the reader to keep curiosity or doubt about the setting.

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All these choices on the structure of the short story start to impact the reader. “If the hunters think we do all things by chants and spells, they may believe so-it does not hurt them.

I was taught how to read in the old books and how to make the old writings –that was hard and took a long time.” While the author has the reader in a doubt trying to determine the setting after seeing they would hunt for metal the author brings the reader back to the culture of the young man’s life as stated above making the reader start catching hints between the way he was raised as would the people in ancient days but the reality of the setting in the future after metal was invented, this is where we truly see the foreshadowing take effect.

This literary device being used in the short story creates a huge impact on the reader showing you how the confusion and how greatly it engages the reader to find out the truth. What really confirms the setting is when the author illustrates a scene were the sons priest reaches the “Dead places” or the place of the Gods. “Nevertheless, it was strange. 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 fire in it.” Here we can see clearly that the sons priest has reached a city in ruins that civilization is learning what has happened on earth and seeing how the “gods” that are humans lived.

The machine is a stove were they would cook but now with no electricity he expects too see a fire a pit. Hear the author illustrates a sink a place to wash dishes but he’s confused because he sees no water because civilization would use fossils to have water come out to wash .Here the author creates a image clear enough to have the reader understand the foreshadowing. Throughout this short story the author impacts the reader with the structure of his writing. He uses literally devices like foreshadowing, situational irony and imagery. The author creates a confusion having the reader pick up hints along the way to try and decipher where these events are taken place. All these things lead the reader to the truth of the story.

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Literary Devices in "By the Waters of Babylon". (2016, Aug 06). Retrieved from

Literary Devices in "By the Waters of Babylon"

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