The Elkhorn and Blackfoot rivers are not only where Norman, Paul, and their father fish, but these bodies of water structure their sense of place and lend Norman, in particular, a way of thinking about life’s metaphorical course. Norman often marvels at the geological origin of these rivers, how they were formed with the release of a massive glacial dam that used to spread over the entire Pacific Northwest, cutting their way through mountains as the glaciers receded and left their imprint on the lines in the surrounding mountains today. Rivers are far more ancient, and more lasting, than any human’s life. But Norman is able to find resonance between their sharp turns, deposits, and quiet pools and the similarly variegated paths of a human life. In terms of Paul’s life, in particular, rivers symbolize both life’s discernible patterns and the inherent mysteriousness of these patterns. The meaning of these patterns is not always readily apparent, and indeed, may not be discernible at all by a human mind. Norman can only wonder at and respect these patterns rather than seeking to reveal their inner workings.
A River Runs Through It
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Rivers appears in A River Runs Through It. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...follow the pothole-ridden road (making Neal even more uncomfortable) until the moment when the Elkhorn River empties into the Missouri. But Ken, who lives in Wolf Creek, is an expert with... (full context)
...partly because he spends more time in the water—he’s quicker than anyone to reach the river, change flies, tie knots, etc. Norman also imagines that Paul doesn’t want to give Norman... (full context)
...one involves fishing for big fish in a small area where the willows on the riverside complicate things for the fisherman. This area, where Norman now is heading, holds “Brown monsters”... (full context)
...says it was in shallow, open water without bushes, since Browns usually feed along the river’s edge where grasshoppers and mice fall in. Norman is dismayed: he thought he had fished... (full context)