Relationships in Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It Essay

Relationships in Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It Essay

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Relationships in Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It


"Eventually the watcher joined the river, and there was only one of us. I believe it was the river." The river that Norman Maclean speaks of in A River Runs Through It works as a connection, a tie, holding together the relationships between Norman and his acquaintances in this remote society. Though "It" is never outwardly defined in the novella there is definite evidence "It" is the personality of the people and that the river is running through each individual personality acting as the simple thread connecting this diverse group of people.

With the help of the river these Montana residents are able to teach as well as learn from each other. Since the time of the Indians, fathers have been teaching sons the ways of the river and the Maclean family is no different. Paul and Norman learn from a young age first how to pray, read the Bible, and then fly fish from their father. For the Maclean family "there is no clear line between religion and fly-fishing" and their father is a Presbyterian preacher who incorporates all these lessons into the river. He carefully transitions from telling them "about Christ's disciples being fishermen" to teaching them "to approach the art (of fly-fishing) Marine- and Presbyterian- style" alongside the river. Along this river his sons receive "as many hours of instruction in fly fishing as in all other spiritual matters" making the river a pivotal part of everyday life.

"Although Paul was three years younger than Norman?he was already far ahead in anything relating to fishing" by their early teens. Paul quickly passes Norman and his father in skillful fishing but more than that he acquired more style. His father...


... middle of paper ...


...y and as expected Norman "is blamed for Neal." Norman is able to put his anger quickly behind him however, when he and Paul go on a fishing trip to "recuperate." He looks to "fishing for the healing effects of the cool waters" of the river. He quickly becomes lost in his fishing, so completely that he becomes "totally composed of thoughts about the Elkhorn River, the weather, and a mythological fish" and not a single thought of his dying anger.

Characters are bound to each other by the river and through their common love of the river. Sometimes the only thing they have in common is this mutual love. This Montana community is entwined in the river that runs through it. All the characters obviously feel the same as Norman when he says "I also became the river."

Work Cited

MacLean, Norman. A River Runs Through It. University of Chicago Press, 1989.

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