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Book Club Wed Feb 04 2009

A River Runs Through It Discussion Questions

Below are the questions we'll use to discuss Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It. If you've read the two stories that accompany the title story in the book, we'll briefly discuss our reactions to them, however the majority of the discussion will focus on A River Runs Through It (so don't worry if you haven't read them). Feel free to post answers in the comments -- we'll meet next Monday, February 9, to discuss it in person at the Book Cellar. As always, new members are welcome to drop in.

  • In the very beginning, the author states that there was no clear line between fishing and religion. Does this mean that they're on equal standing or does it elevate one above the other?
  • How does fly fishing support the Maclean men's view of life? Why does Maclean spend so much time detailing it in the story?
  • What has Neal done wrong and how is it a sin the Paul's and Norman's eyes? How do the women's reactions reflect on Norman 's feelings about Paul's situation? Should he be held responsible for Neal's actions?
  • How do you feel about the way in which women are portrayed in the story? Is it a fair portrayal or are the women a marginal part of the story?
  • There is a scene toward the end in which Norman 's father is reading a bible and says that he used to think that water came first, but "if you listen carefully you will hear that the words are underneath the water." Norman says that this is because he is a preacher first and a fisherman second, but his father disagrees and says that Paul will tell him the same thing: "The water runs over the words." What does he mean by this? What does it say about Paul and how he and Norman are different?
  • What does the "river" in this book symbolize? For what is it, and fishing, a metaphor?
  • By the end of the story, does Norman feel that he's failed Paul? How could he have possibly helped him? Does he believe he could have helped him?
  • How successfully does Norman insert himself as a character in the story? Is he a trustworthy narrator or do you question the accuracy of the story?
  • How do the book and the movie compare? In what ways does the movie remain true to the book and in what ways does it stray? Does one enhance your understanding of the other?

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