A River Runs Through It Book Online

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No book on this list is more quotable than A River Runs Through It, because no book explores huge metaphysical questions in such an easy-going colloquial manner. This is a book to read, read, and read again. 4) River of Doubt By Candice Millard. From A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean: Page 5 of 9 “The hardest thing usually to leave behind, as was the case now, can loosely be called the conscience.” p. 39: Eastern Brook Trout “are beautiful to see – black backs, yellow and orange spots on their.

A River Runs Through It (Signed Limited Edition) by MACLEAN, Norman and a great selection of related books, art and collectibles available now at AbeBooks.com. A river runs through it by Norman Maclean, 1976, University of Chicago Press edition, in English. Based on Norman Maclean's childhood experiences, A River Runs Through It has established itself as one of the most moving stories of our time; it captivates readers with vivid descriptions of life along Montana's Big Blackfoot River and its near magical blend of fly fishing with the troubling affections of the heart.

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.

It is true that one day a week was given over wholly to religion. On Sunday mornings my brother, Paul, and I went to Sunday school and then to 'morning services' to hear our father preach and in the evenings to Christian Endeavor and afterwards to 'evening services' to hear our father preach again. In between on Sunday afternoons we had to study The Westminster Shorter Catechism for an hour and then recite before we could walk the hills with him while he unwound between services. But he never asked us more than the first question in the catechism, 'What is the chief end of man?' And we answered together so one of us could carry on if the other forgot, 'Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.' This always seemed to satisfy him, as indeed such a beautiful answer should have, and besides he was anxious to be on the hills where he could restore his soul and be filled again to overflowing for the evening sermon. His chief way of recharging himself was to recite to us from the sermon that was coming, enriched here and there with selections from the most successful passages of his morning sermon.

River Runs Through It Meaning

Even so, in a typical week of our childhood Paul and I probably received as many hours of instruction in fly fishing as we did in all other spiritual matters.

After my brother and I became good fishermen, we realized that our father was not a great fly caster, but he was accurate and stylish and wore a glove on his casting hand. As he buttoned his glove in preparation to giving us a lesson, he would say, 'It is an art that is performed on a four-count rhythm between ten and two o'clock.'

As a Scot and a Presbyterian, my father believed that man by nature was a mess and had fallen from an original state of grace. Somehow, I early developed the notion that he had done this by falling from a tree. As for my father, I never knew whether he believed God was a mathematician but he certainly believed God could count and that only by picking up God's rhythms were we able to regain power and beauty. Unlike many Presbyterians, he often used the word 'beautiful.'

After he buttoned his glove, he would hold his rod straight out in front of him, where it trembled with the beating of his heart. Although it was eight and a half feet long, it weighed only four and a half ounces. It was made of split bamboo cane from the far-off Bay of Tonkin. It was wrapped with red and blue silk thread, and the wrappings were carefully spaced to make the delicate rod powerful but not so stiff it could not tremble.

Always it was to be called a rod. If someone called it a pole, my father looked at him as a sergeant in the United States Marines would look at a recruit who had just called a rifle a gun.

My brother and I would have preferred to start learning how to fish by going out and catching a few, omitting entirely anything difficult or technical in the way of preparation that would take away from the fun. But it wasn't by way of fun that we were introduced to our father's art. If our father had had his say, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him. So you too will have to approach the art Marine and Presbyterian-style, and, if you have never picked up a fly rod before, you will soon find it factually and theologically true that man by nature is a damn mess. The four-and-a-half-ounce thing in silk wrappings that trembles with the underskin motions of the flesh becomes a stick without brains, refusing anything simple that is wanted of it. All that a rod has to do is lift the line, the leader, and the fly off the water, give them a good toss over the head, and then shoot them forward so they will land in the water without a splash in the following order: fly, transparent leader, and then the line—otherwise the fish will see the fly is a fake and be gone. Of course, there are special casts that anyone could predict would be difficult, and they require artistry—casts where the line can't go over the fisherman's head because cliffs or trees are immediately behind, sideways casts to get the fly under overhanging willows, and so on. But what's remarkable about just a straight cast—just picking up a rod with a line on it and tossing the line across the river?

Well, until man is redeemed he will always take a fly rod too far back, just as natural man always overswings with an ax or golf club and loses all his power somewhere in the air: only with a rod it's worse, because the fly often comes so far back it gets caught behind in a bush or rock. When my father said it was an art that ended at two o'clock, he often added, 'closer to ten than to two,' meaning that the rod should be taken back only slightly farther than overhead (straight overhead being twelve o'clock).

Then, since it is natural for man to try to attain power without recovering grace, he whips the line back and forth making it whistle each way, and sometimes even snapping off the fly from the leader, but the power that was going to transport the little fly across the river somehow gets diverted into building a bird's nest of line, leader, and fly that falls out of the air into the water about ten feet in front of the fisherman. If, though, he pictures the round trip of the line, transparent leader, and fly from the time they leave the water until their return, they are easier to cast. They naturally come off the water heavy line first and in front, and light transparent leader and fly trailing behind. But, as they pass overhead, they have to have a little beat of time so the light, transparent leader and fly can catch up to the heavy line now starting forward and again fall behind it; otherwise, the line starting on its return trip will collide with the leader and fly still on their way up, and the mess will be the bird's nest that splashes into the water ten feet in front of the fisherman.

Almost the moment, however, that the forward order of line, leader, and fly is reestablished, it has to be reversed, because the fly and transparent leader must be ahead of the heavy line when they settle on the water. If what the fish sees is highly visible line, what the fisherman will see are departing black darts, and he might as well start for the next hole. High overhead, then, on the forward cast (at about ten o'clock) the fisherman checks again.

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. Power comes not from power everywhere, but from knowing where to put it on. 'Remember,' as my father kept saying, 'it is an art that is performed on a four-count rhythm between ten and two o'clock.'

My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.

So my brother and I learned to cast Presbyterian-style, on a metronome. It was mother's metronome, which father had taken from the top of the piano in town. She would occasionally peer down to the dock from the front porch of the cabin, wondering nervously whether her metronome could float if it had to. When she became so overwrought that she thumped down the dock to reclaim it, my father would clap out the four-count rhythm with his cupped hands.

Eventually, he introduced us to literature on the subject. He tried always to say something stylish as he buttoned the glove on his casting hand. 'Izaak Walton,' he told us when my brother was thirteen or fourteen, 'is not a respectable writer. He was an Episcopalian and a bait fisherman.' Although Paul was three years younger than I was, he was already far ahead of me in anything relating to fishing and it was he who first found a copy of The Compleat Angler and reported back to me, 'The bastard doesn't even know how to spell 'complete.' Besides, he has songs to sing to dairymaids.' I borrowed his copy, and reported back to him, 'Some of those songs are pretty good.' He said, 'Whoever saw a dairymaid on the Big Blackfoot River?

'I would like,' he said, 'to get him for a day's fishing on the Big Blackfoot—with a bet on the side.'

The boy was very angry, and there has never been a doubt in my mind that the boy would have taken the Episcopalian money.

When you are in your teens—maybe throughout your life—being three years older than your brother often makes you feel he is a boy. However, I knew already that he was going to be a master with a rod. He had those extra things besides fine training—genius, luck, and plenty of self-confidence. Even at this age he liked to bet on himself against anybody who would fish with him, including me, his older brother. It was sometimes funny and sometimes not so funny, to see a boy always wanting to bet on himself and almost sure to win. Although I was three years older, I did not yet feel old enough to bet. Betting, I assumed, was for men who wore straw hats on the backs of their heads. So I was confused and embarrassed the first couple of times he asked me if I didn't want 'a small bet on the side just to make things interesting.' The third time he asked me must have made me angry because he never again spoke to me about money, not even about borrowing a few dollars when he was having real money problems.

We had to be very careful in dealing with each other. I often thought of him as a boy, but I never could treat him that way. He was never 'my kid brother.' He was a master of an art. He did not want any big brother advice or money or help, and, in the end, I could not help him.

A River Runs Through It
Directed byRobert Redford
Produced by
  • Robert Redford
Screenplay byRichard Friedenberg
Based onA River Runs Through It
by Norman Maclean
Music byMark Isham
CinematographyPhilippe Rousselot
Edited by
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
Running time
123 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[1]
Box office$43.4 million[2]

A River Runs Through It is a 1992 American drama film directed by Robert Redford and starring Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, and Emily Lloyd. It is based on the 1976 semi-autobiographical novella A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, adapted for the screen by Richard Friedenberg. Set in and around Missoula, Montana, the story follows two sons of a Presbyterian minister, one studious and the other rebellious, as they grow up and come of age in the Rocky Mountain region during a span of time from roughly World War I to the early days of the Great Depression, including part of the Prohibition era.[3]

The film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and was also nominated for Best Music, Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film grossed $43 million and received positive reviews from critics.

A river runs through it book sparknotes


The Maclean brothers, Norman and Paul, grow up in Missoula, Montana with their father, Presbyterian minister John, from whom they learn a love of fly fishing for trout in the Blackfoot River. Norman and Paul are home taught and must adhere to the strict moral and educational code of their father. As young men, the brothers navigate a dangerous waterfall. Norman leaves to attend college at Dartmouth; when he returns six years later, he finds that Paul has become a skilled fisherman.

Norman attends a July 4th dance, and meets Jessie Burns. Paul has become a fearless muckraking reporter at a newspaper in Helena. He has angered many of the locals by falling behind in a big poker game in Lolo Montana where a bar is a front for gambling and prostitution. He is also dating a Native American woman, Mabel, who is deemed inferior by the white community. Paul is arrested after fighting a man who has insulted her, and Norman is awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from the police to come and bail Paul out of jail.

After Norman and Jessie go on several dates, she asks that Norman make an effort to get along with her brother Neal, who is visiting from California. Norman and Paul do not like Neal, but at Jessie's insistence they invite him to go fishing. Neal shows up drunk with Rawhide, a woman he met at a bar the night before. Norman and Paul decide to fish anyway and return to their car hours later to find that Neal and the woman have drunk all the beer and passed out naked in the sun.

Norman returns a painfully sunburned Neal home, where Jessie is waiting for them. She is angry that the brothers did not fish with Neal. Norman asks Jessie to drive him home, as he had brought Neal back in Neal's car, and he tells her that he is falling for her. She drives away angry but a week later asks Norman to come to the train station to see Neal off. After the train departs, Norman shows Jessie a letter from the University of Chicago: a job offer for an English Literature teaching position. Norman tells Jessie that he does not necessarily wish to leave and when it becomes clear that it's because of her - her face lights up and she quickly embraces him.

A river in Montana

When Norman tells Paul about the job offer and marriage proposal, he urges Paul to come with him and Jessie to Chicago, concerned that Paul is making powerful enemies. Paul says that he will never leave Montana. Just before leaving for Chicago, Norman, Paul, and their father go fly fishing one last time. Paul catches a huge rainbow trout that drags him down the river through a set of rapids before he finally lands it. John proudly tells him what a wonderful fisherman he has become, and how he is an artist in the craft, much to Paul's delight. They pose for pictures with the huge fish.

Soon after the fishing excursion, Norman is called by the police, who tell him that Paul has been found beaten to death in an alley. Norman goes home and tells his parents the news. Years later, Mrs. Maclean, Norman, Jessie, and their two children listen to a sermon being given by John, who dies soon after.

The closing scene is of the elderly Norman, once again fishing on the same river, with director Robert Redford narrating the final lines from the original novella;

Of course now I'm too old to be much of a fisherman, and now I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn't. But when I'm alone in the half light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and memories, and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River, and the four-count rhythm, and a hope that a fish will rise. Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood, and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.

— Norman Maclean, (1976).[4]


  • Craig Sheffer as Norman Maclean
    • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Young Norman Maclean
    • Arnold Richardson as Old Norman (narrator's voice by Robert Redford)
  • Brad Pitt as Paul Maclean
    • Vann Gravage as Young Paul Maclean
  • Tom Skerritt as Reverend John Maclean
  • Brenda Blethyn as Clara Maclean
  • Emily Lloyd as Jessie Burns
  • Edie McClurg as Mrs. Burns
  • Stephen Shellen as Neal Burns
  • Nicole Burdette as Mabel, Indian woman
  • Susan Traylor as Rawhide, woman with Neal
  • Michael Cudlitz as Chub
  • William Hootkins as Murphy



A River Runs Through It Book Online Subtitrat

The Redeemer Lutheran Church in Livingston, Montana, used for the Presbyterian church scenes.

Although both the book and movie are set in Missoula and on the Blackfoot River, it was filmed in late June to early July 1991 in south central Montana in Livingston and Bozeman,[3] and on the nearby upper Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Boulder Rivers. The waterfall shown is Granite Falls in Wyoming.[5][6] Filming was completed in early September 1991.

An article published in the Helena Independent Record in July 2000, based on recollections of people who knew both brothers, noted a number of specifics about the Macleans — notably various chronological and educational details about Paul Maclean's adult life — that differ somewhat from their portrayal in the film and novella.[7]


Mark Isham, who would go on to compose the scores to most Robert Redford-directed films, composed the musical score for the film. Originally, Elmer Bernstein was hired to score the film. However, after Redford and Bernstein disagreed over the tone of the music, Bernstein was replaced by Isham.[8] Rushed for time, Isham completed the score within four weeks at Schnee Studio of Signet Sound Studios in Hollywood, CA. Upon release, the music was met with positive reviews earning the film both nominations for Grammy and Academy awards. The A River Runs Through It (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was released on October 27, 1992.[9]

In some home video releases of the film, Elmer Bernstein is credited as the film's composer despite his score being rejected during post-production.


A River Runs Through It Book Online Summary

It premiered at Bozeman, Montana, with a theatrical release on October 9 in the United States.[10]

Home media[edit]

A River Runs Through It was originally released on VHS on May 19, 1993. It was released on DVD in 1999 and in a deluxe DVD edition in 2005.[11] It was reissued on Blu-ray in July 2009 by Sony Pictures with six extra features including 17 deleted scenes and a documentary titled Deep Currents: Making 'A River Runs Through It' with interview segments of the cast and crew.[12]


Box office[edit]

Released on October 9, 1992, the film grossed $43,440,294 in US domestic returns.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 80% based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 6.79/10. The site's critics consensus reads: 'Tasteful to a fault, this period drama combines a talented cast (including a young Brad Pitt) with some stately, beautifully filmed work from director Robert Redford.'[13] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating 'generally favorable reviews'.[14] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of 'A–' on an A+ to F scale.[15]

Much of the praise focused on Pitt's portrayal of Paul, which has been cited as his career-making performance.[16] Despite the critical reception, Brad Pitt was very critical of his performance on the film: 'Robert Redford made a quality movie. But I don't think I was skilled enough. I think I could have done better. Maybe it was the pressure of the part, and playing someone who was a real person — and the family was around occasionally — and not wanting to let Redford down.'[17]

Awards and honors[edit]

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1993, including Best Cinematography (Philippe Rousselot); Best Music, Original Score (Mark Isham); and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Richard Friedenberg). Rousselot won for Best Cinematography. At the Golden Globes, Robert Redford was nominated for Best Director - Motion Picture, but did not win.


  1. ^'AFI-Catalog'. catalog.afi.com. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. ^ ab'A River Runs Through It (1992)'. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  3. ^ abThompson, Toby (October 11, 1992). 'A River Runs Through It'. Washington Post. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
  4. ^'A river runs through it'. Youtube.com. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  5. ^McMillion, Scott (June 20, 2003). 'Writers, professors read A River Runs Through It'. Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  6. ^A River Runs Through It filming locations. Archived October 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^Kidston, Martin J. (July 9, 2000). 'Paul MacLean in Helena'. Independent Record. Helena, Montana. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  8. ^'Filmtracks:A River Runs Through It (Mark Isham)'. Filmtracks.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  9. ^Mark Morton. 'A River Runs Through It [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]'. AllMusic. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  10. ^Festival Celebrates 25th Anniversary Of 'A River Runs Through It' - By JACKIE YAMANAKA, SEP 12, 2017
  11. ^A River Runs Through It: Deluxe Edition November 29, 2005
  12. ^A River Runs Through It Blu-ray DigiBook Sony Pictures 1992 124 min Jul 28, 2009
  13. ^'A River Runs Through It Reviews'. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  14. ^'A River Runs Through It Reviews'. Metacritic. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  15. ^'Find CinemaScore'(Type 'River Runs Through It' in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  16. ^Turan, Kenneth. 'Reverence Runs Deep in 'River''. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  17. ^https://ew.com/movies/2011/09/16/brad-pitt-ew-interview/

External links[edit]

A River Runs Through It Book Review

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A River Runs Through It Book Sparknotes

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