A River Runs Through It Analysis

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A River Runs Through It is, deservedly so, the work that Norman Maclean will always be best known for. His 1976 semi-autobiographical novella tells what is really only a brief piece of the life story of two brothers who grew up together in the Montana wilderness; but the scope of this timeless tale of fishing, family, and religion extends beyond just a few months. It touches on the entirety of the complicated relationship between Norman Maclean and his parents, and his prodigal yet distant and troubled brother Paul. In masterful and stirring prose, Maclean examines the strength of their bond, and yet how neither he nor his family could keep Paul from self-destruction. Maclean also mulls over his and his family’s ideas about grace and man’s relation to nature. Maclean’s enthralling vision is delivered through the artistry of his writing, earning the book its deserved position as a classic of American literature. In 1992, a film adaptation of the novel was released,…show more content…
This fact is very important to understanding the story itself; as while the text is based firmly in the experiences of Norman Maclean, he made it clear even within the story that River is the result of Maclean looking back on his own life, and using his own experience as a literary critic to poeticize the real events that happened between him and his brother. As such, it should be taken as a distillation of the essence of its subject, not as an accurate retelling. At the end of the story, there is the following exchange between Norman and his father, the Reverend Maclean: “’You like to tell true stories, don’t you?’ he asked, and I answered “Yes, I like to tell stories that are true.’ Then he asked, ‘After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don’t you make up a story and the people to go with it? Only then will you understand what happened and why.’”
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