The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Maclean’s characters are drawn from his family, in terms of the significance their lives. Initially, Maclean’s father instills in his sons a sense of wonder and the conviction that God is to be found in nature and in the four-count rhythm used in fly fishing. While this strict father cannot overcome Paul’s defiance of his biblical teaching, he cannot ignore Paul’s beauty either.

The problem is that while Paul achieves grace and beauty in fishing, he is unable to attain peace and acceptance in his personal life. In addition to his drinking and gambling, he prefers exciting relationships with women to long-term ones. The narrator’s uneasiness over Paul’s prodigal yet forceful character forms the conflict at the heart of the tale. His own tough but integrated character is revealed as he struggles to fish successfully and to keep peace with his relatives. Family communication is carried out in the typical Scottish manner, cryptic and often unfinished, leaving Maclean troubled.

Paul’s character is complex and taciturn. On fishing trips, he tells personal anecdotes. In one such story, Paul is so raptly watching a jackrabbit in his headlights that he misses a turn and smashes his car. He claims to have been lonely and to have found company in the jackrabbit, but Maclean suspects that the accident may have resulted from alcohol. Maclean does not know if he is supposed to be amused or concerned, but, as with subsequent problems, he proves...

(The entire section is 445 words.)