Reflection of the Theory of Change in a short story by Stephen Vincent Benét called "By the rivers of Babylon"

Reflection of the Theory of Change


in a short story by Stephen Vincent Benét


called "By the rivers of Babylon".




You can not enter one and the same river twice‛ this well-known quotation from Herodotus defines the very essence of change. Everything undergoes changes sooner or later and nothing stays the same. Change is inevitable and inseparable part of the evolution that is development.


Short story written by Stephen Vincent Benét which is called ‛By the rivers of Babylon‛ perfectly illustrates this thesis.


A young man, a son of a priest, decides to travel to forbidden lands to gain experience and to tell other people what is going on there.


This youth is the narrator of the story. He knows that his future is determined that is he has to be a priest like his father. On the other hand he feels the desire to change his life by going to the forbidden land. He says: ‛… my knowledge and my lack of knowledge burned in me- I wished to know more.‛ And that’s sounds like his motivation.


Thus, he wants not only to change his life by obtaining new knowledge, but also he wishes to change the way people perceive world in his tribe by telling them about forbidden far-away places. While traveling forbidden roads the narrator of the story discovers many things which used to be unknown for him, for instance, cats those were roaming all over the place and were not afraid of people. The young man’s perception of the world starts changing with every new thing like that he sees.


In the past all he knew about the world was legends he heard when he was a child. But now he has a chance to see everything with his own eyes. He remembers legends, he sees the realty and he makes his conclusions about the world: ‛It is not true, what some of the tales say, that the ground there burns forever, for I have been there… It is not true either, what some of our priests say, that it is an island covered with fogs and enchantments. It is not.


So he compares legends and tales that is what he used to know to what he sees now and consequently his world view changes step by step and his ideology begins to evolve.


However, change may occur in two different ways: the first one is evolution and the second way is revolution. The first one has already happened to the narrator, and the second occurs when the narrator tries to put all his new knowledge together. When the young man discovers that so-called gods were men the new picture of the world in his head is complete and full. The very moment he finds this missing part of the puzzle his world he thought he lived in turns upside down. This is a true revolution which happens to him when he finally contemplates the complete picture of the world.


The journey of the young man may serve also as an example of formula worked out by Kurt Lewin. Firstly, unfreezing stage happens when the narrator experiences different situations which negate knowledge he used to operate. Secondly, the process for him will be change itself which happened in his mind. Finally he stays frozen again when this new knowledge is settled down in his brain.


Moreover, I would suggest another formula describing his journey. First comes the stage of gathering data about new phenomenon he sees, after that comes the analysis of this data and finally comes change itself which appears a revolution to him.


Although the latter one may not always be good for a person because rapid, out-of-control change (revolution) can ruin the system of believes. The example of this we can observe in the history of Russia, where in 1917 revolution that is rapid changes led to chaos and anarchy. Therefore, I believe, it is so important to try to manage change to turn it to step-be-step development that is evolution.


Denis O. Svyatun



04:18 03.11.2017



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