Essay on Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It

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Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It

Throughout A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean emphasizes the relationship between nature, art, and faith. The concise, simple sentence with which he chooses to open his story captures the essence of all one hundred pages: in his family, 'there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing' (1). Reverend Maclean believes that both fly fishing and spiritual belief are 'exact arts,' if such a term can exist without paradox. The Reverend holds the firm conviction that 'all good things ' trout as well as eternal salvation ' come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy' (4). This belief system obviously espouses a view of the world as meticulous and well-ordered:
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Spirituality, at its best, resembles a river, both dependable and mysterious. The Reverend, with his respect for tradition, embodies the steady timelessness that rivers and God share, while Paul?s stubborn wild streak represents the entities? indefinite, uncontainable quality. Through his spare yet lyrical prose, Maclean manages to both explicate and illustrate a balance between a prudent, rational Protestant existence and an unrestrained, whimsical one. This elusive equilibrium is Maclean?s path to faith. Religious belief should strive to be unshakeably firm while also flexible and ever-evolving; in this way, human convictions can serve the same unifying capability which Maclean claims for rivers. ?Eventually,? he says, ?all things merge into one, and a river runs through it? (104). Faith, along with rivers, leads to this universal understanding and harmony.

This struggle to attain the proper balance ? the quest to ?pick up God?s rhythms? ? manifests itself repeatedly in both the book and the film. At the opening of the movie, a young Norman is seen dutifully showing his father completed writing exercises over and over. Finally, after a work ethic of the most Puritan variety, he is finally set free from his schoolwork, allowed to fish with Paul for the
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