This theme encompasses both the idea of confusion or chaos and that of
disorder or lawlessness. Most of the quotations below express the idea of
noisy confusion.


According to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, the descendants of Noah moved to the plain of Shinar where they settled and decided to build a city and a tower, the tower of Babel, ‘whose top may reach unto heaven’ (Gen. n : 4).

On seeing the tower, God was concerned that man was becoming too powerful and so decided to thwart him by introducing different languages: ‘Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech’ (Gen. 4: 6-7). Having caused them to be mutually incomprehensible, God then dispersed and scattered them. The Tower of Babel has come to symbolize a noisy confusion of voices or a chaotic mixture of languages.

Everyone seemed eager to talk at once, and the result was Babel.

H. G. WELLS The Invisible Man, 1897

The crew’s mess on board the Kronos is a Tower of Babel of English, French, Filipino,Danish, and German.

PETER H0EG Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, 1992

Tower of Babel


In Greek mythology, the Bacchantes or Maenads were the female devotees of the cult of Dionysus, also known as Bacchus. They took part in frenzied, orgiastic, and ecstatic celebrations at the festivals of Dionysus.


Bedlam was the popular name of the Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem in London, founded as a priory in 1247 at Bishopsgate and by the 14th century a mental hospital. In 1675 a new hospital was built in Moorfields, and this in turn was replaced by a building in the Lambeth Road in 1815 (now the Imperial War Museum) and transferred to Beckenham in Kent in 1931. The word ‘Bedlam’ now denotes a state of wild disorder or noisy uproar.


In Greek mythology, Dionysus (also called Bacchus) was the son of Zeus and Semele and the god of wine. His cult was celebrated at various festivals throughout the year, some of which included orgies and ecstatic rites.

Dionysus, representing creativity, sensuality, and lack of inhibition, is often contrasted with Apollo, representing order, reason, and self-discipline.

Dodge City

Dodge City, in Kansas, USA, had a reputation as a rowdy frontier town until Wyatt Earp became chief deputy marshal in 1876 and introduced order. Dodge City can be alluded to as a place characterized by lawless or unregulated conflict, particularly involving gun fights.

An ‘off-duty’ gun. It was the first thing they all did twenty-two years ago, those slicksleeved, scrubbed, and hard-muscled rookies with their big eyes and crewcuts and bags full of hope. They ran out and bought ‘off-duty’ guns. Dodge City. The John Wayne syndrome.

JANET EVANOVICH Four to Score, 1998

wreck of the Hesperus

‘The Wreck of the Hesperus’ is the title of a poem by H. W. Longfellow (1840), which tells of the destruction of a schooner, the Hesperus, which was caught in a storm and wrecked on the reef of Norman’s Woe, off the coast of Massachusetts, in 1839.

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

The Mad Hatter is a character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and one of the participants at a strange tea party where the Hatter and the March Hare talk nonsense and the Dormouse falls asleep.


Pandemonium, meaning ‘all the demons’, was the name given by John Milton to the capital of Hell in his poem Paradise Lost (1667). The word ‘pandemonium’ is usually now applied to a place of utter confusion and uproar