“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. ” -Norman Maclean The river that Norman Maclean speaks of in A River Runs Through It works as a connection, a tie, holding together the relationships between Norman and his family and friends in this remote time period in society.
It symbolizes life; happiness, tragedy, easy times, and turmoil. However, it maintains a steady flow, showing that life moves on no matter what cards you are dealt. It also maintains an old, wise appearance, symbolizing life’s lessons and depth. The river is a symbol of life’s journey and ventures. As the river flows, it winds around and around through the forest, never following a distinct path, much like the spontaneity of the human existence. As you go through life, every move you make has a consequence.
Every word you say provokes a reaction. Every single action you execute affects your future in either a positive or negative way. A river is the journey of life; it twists and turns in unexpected directions. Sometimes you can see it for miles ahead of you, sometimes you can only see up to the next bend. A slow moving current feels like peace and tranquility, while a waterfall is tumultuous and disorderly. At some points, you may take the opportunity to branch off into a little brook or stream, in pursuit of something new and exciting.
These little journeys help you to grow as an individual, to become who you would like to be. There is no rhyme or reason to the matter, it’s you’re life’s story, and it’s you’re job to carve the way. The river also represents the constant flow of time. As the river progresses, It may slow down, but it never stops. This shows the idea that life moves on, and you can’t go back, you can only live for the future. This symbolism rang very true in the scene between Norman Maclean and Jessie Burns when they are discussing Neal Burns and Paul Maclean.
Jessie asked Norman, “Norman, Why is it the people who need the most help… won’t take it? ” As much as Jessie and Norman both want to help their brothers, they must come to terms with the fact that neither of them is willing to receive assistance with their lives. Jessie and Norman are both reluctant to let go, but realize that life goes on, and there is nothing they can do except live their own life, and leave the rest to fate. Also, at the end of the film, Paul is bludgeoned to death with the butt of a revolver because of a gambling dispute.
Norman knew that Paul’s gambling would be the end of him, and he had to accept Paul’s fate that and move on with his life. The final thing that the river represents is the impact of one human life on another. Throughout life, you interact with society and whether apparent or not, affect many people in different ways. You may help someone when they are in trouble by helping them up and getting them through life until they’ve found stability and peace. This is much like how a river moves stones.
They sit in the same spot, dormant, until by some miracle the water intervenes and lifts them up and carries them to a new spot to settle anew. The river also shows the circle of events in your life. As you grow, you encounter many new things, failure, joy, hardship, etc. You gain new knowledge and experience through these things, but you also never lose sight of your past and where you’ve come from. This is much like the river in that, as long as the river is in existence, it will never be the same. It maintains old waters, but as it rains or snows, it gains new fresh life to feed its rapids.
Some of its waters will evaporate into the air and settle elsewhere, symbolizing those people and events in your life that you forgive and forget. The river is a magnitude of symbolism. It is a depiction of the true human life. It is life’s journey, filled with twists and turns, rocky points, and smooth sailing. It never stops. It travels over boulders and around trees, carving a path through the forest completely its own. But it never forgets where it has been. It may move on and conquer new frontier, but it still carries with it the waters of its beginning.