Norman Mclean’s A River Runs Through It explores m
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Norman Mclean’s A River Runs Through It explores many feelings and experiences of one “turn of the century” family in Missoula, Montana. In both the movie, directed by Robert Redford, and the original work of fiction we follow the Mcleans through their joys and sorrows. However, the names of the characters and places are not purely coincidental. These are the same people and places known by Norman Mclean as he was growing up. In a sense, A River Runs Through It is Mclean’s autobiography. Although these autobiographical influences are quite evident throughout the course of the story they have deeper roots in the later life of the author as he copes with his life’s hardships. The characters in the movie and book are taken straight from Mclean’s life. From the hard working, soft centered, minister father, to the drunken, “down on his luck”, brother-in-law, Neil. The character of Paul appears the be the most true to life member of Norman’s family. The audience quickly becomes familiar with Paul and his quick-tempered, always ready for anything attitude. This is evident in the beginning of the story with Paul’s frequent phrase “...with a bet on the to make things interesting (Mclean 6).” “It was almost funny and sometimes not so funny to see a boy always wanting to bet on himself and almost sure to win (Mclean 5).” Unlike Norman who was rigorously home schooled every morning, while Paul seemed to escape this torment. The boys would spend their afternoons frolicking in the woods and fishing the Big Blackfoot River. The differences that developed between Paul’s and Norman’s fishing styles become evident in the published versions of Mclean’s life as well as his real life. Norman followed the traditional style taught by their preacher-father, ten and two in a four -count rhythm, like a metronome. The four-count rhythm, of course, is functional. The one count takes the line, leader, and fly off the water; the two count tosses them seemingly straight into the sky; the three count was my father’s way of saying that at the top the leader and fly have to be given a little beat of time to get behind the line as it is starting forward; the four count means put on the power and throw the line into the rod until you reach ten o’clock-then check-cast, let the fly and leader get ahead of the line, and coast to a soft and perfect landing (Mclean 4). Paul, on the other hand, was less controlled by their father. Therefore he was able to develop his own style of casting. This new technique in which he dubbed “shadow casting” was able to draw the fish to the surface using only the shadow of the fly. “...That the fish are alerted by the shadows of flies passing over the water by the first casts, so hit the fly the moment it touches the water (Mclean 21).” Among other things, Paul was also grew up with a bit of gambling and drinking streak in him. Paul’s habits did not just exist in the book, these characteristics of Paul were carried over from Norman’s real life experiences with his brother. “...Paul lived mostly by instinct and bravado, learning early on to gamble, drink and fight (Eastman 54).” Paul’s tendancies of to get into the high stakes poker games without a clear head and then try to fight his way out of debt was what eventually leads to his demise; both in real life and in A River Runs Through it. Although the documentation of Norman Mclean’s life is very similar to his real life, there are some subtle differences that exist. In the wide screen version of A River Runs Through It, directed by Robert Redford, the middle part of the movie is taken up with Norman’s courting of Jessie, his real life wife. This is different from the book because as the book progresses, Norman is already married to Jessie. One other difference between the movie and the author’s real life is a small scene in which the Mclean boys “borrow” a rowboat and run the rapids of a nearby river. Although untold in the story these parts are part of the creative license taken by Redford in order
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A River Runs Through It, Films, Cinema of the United States, Paul MacLean, McLean, Fiction, Norman
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