Eridanos Or Styx? An Exegesis Of "A River Runs Through It"

1024 words - 4 pages

As suggested by the title of the novella, Norman Maclean writes of the relationship between the natural and the theological, or perhaps better stated as the relationship between the river and life; natural, supernatural and theological.In "A River Runs Through It" Norman Maclean makes several points about the relationship between the theological and the natural. One of these is the theme that love as well as faith precedes all understanding. This is a classic theme of Christianity. Another theme that is prevalent in Christianity that Maclean uses as a thread throughout his novella is the doctrine of election. An oft debated and scrutinized teaching it turns out to be the truest for Maclean and the characters of "A River Runs Through It". Like Isaac, Jacob and Abel, Norman seems peculiarly chosen, and like his biblical counterparts Ishmael, Esau and Cain, Paul seems destined for infernal suffering. Neither seem chosen for choices they have made or deeds they have done, but are predestined for their fates, in Norman's case a long a gracious life, and in Paul's an early and bleak death.Norman, having grown up as a preacher's kid is surely familiar with the story of Job. Job recognizes his God as the God who both gives and takes away, and as Job attests, must be praised and blessed for both. While Norman hesitates (or refuses perhaps) to ascribe to this theory, he does point to earthy (natural) signs of Job's God that is both giver and taker. The most striking examples are the rivers of Norman's world; they are always described as cutting through mountains, hurrying ad rushing in parts, relaxing in eddies behind large rocks, sometimes venturing into dry channels to provide some sort of relief or nutrition to those forgotten areas, yet still all the while carrying their silt and sediment to transform and renovate the natural world. It is this running of the river that Norman feels is the metaphor for life as he relates:As the heat mirages on the river in front of me danced with and through each other, I could feel patterns of my own life joining with them. It was here, while waiting for my brother, that I started this story, although, of course, at the time I did not know that stories of life are often more like rivers than books. But I knew a story had begun, perhaps long ago near the sound of water. And I sensed that ahead I would meet something that would never erode so there would be a sharp turn, deep circles, a deposit, and quietness.As this metaphor of the river as the common thread that binds all humanity and history Maclean introduces the use of fly-fishing homologous of religious ideology and doctrine to explain our reason for being. It is best found when the boys answer their fathers question much like Sunday school children learn to answer the pastor's inquiry quickly and by rote "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." In A River Runs Through It fly-fishing is...

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