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Comparing Metaphors In Norman Maclean's, A River Runs Through It And Henry David Thoreau's, Walden

1477 words - 6 pages

Comparing Metaphors in Norman Maclean's, A River Runs Through It and Henry David Thoreau's, Walden

In Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It, the author recounts the story of his early life growing up in Montana. The narrative revolves around his family and the art of fly fishing. Through the novel, Maclean begins to understand the wisdom of his father, the fierce independence and downfall of his brother, and the divinity and beauty of nature. A similar theme regarding divinity in nature is found in Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Building his own cabin and supplying his own food, Thoreau spends two years living alone beside Walden Pond. Thoreau recognizes nature as the "highest reality"(265) and the intrinsic work of "the Builder of the universe"(348). Thoreau also provides insights into human life and expresses these in indirect metaphors with his natural surroundings. The narratives differ most in their changes in mood and plot progression. In Walden, Thoreau displays a change from beginning to end, expressing pessimism and depression at first and then happiness and fulfillment in the end. A River Runs Through It is largely opposite of this change. Thus, both authors relate similar themes and experiences while significant differences exist in the mood and progression.

One theme common to both narratives relates to how people are similar to bodies of water. Maclean illustrates this as he describes his brother Paul as being "tough"(8) and "very angry"(7) from his youth. Consequently, Paul's favorite river is the Big Blackfoot, which "is the most powerful and . . . runs straight and hard"(13). Maclean describes the river's "glacial origins"(14) and how it was formed overnight in "the biggest flood in the world"(14). Paul's personality is indeed similar to this roaring, canyon river, "a tough place for a trout to live"(14).

Thoreau reflects similar ideas in his description of Walden Pond, which serves as a kind of mirror for Thoreau's life. He determines the depth of Walden in several places and relates this to a man's character. He proposes that one could "draw lines through the aggregate of a man's particular daily behaviors and waves of life into his coves and inlets, and where they intersect will be the height or depth of his character"(319). Thoreau goes as far to say that one can approximate a person's depth of character by simply examining his surroundings. He states that a man with "mountainous circumstances . . . suggests a corresponding depth in him"(320) while "a low and smooth shore proves him shallow"(320). In addition, Thoreau describes "the life in us like the water in the river"(350). He expounds on this idea of water flowing down a river just as men's lives progress and flow. When the water runs its course and life comes to an end, Thoreau implies that a mark and memory remain as "far the inland bank which the stream anciently washed"(350). Maclean's concluding remarks are strikingly similar and exemplify Thoreau's...

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