What is the resolution in A River Runs Through It and how does it problematize or complicate a single, myopic analysis?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A River Runs Through It is the beautiful tale of Norman Maclean's attempt to understand his beloved but troubled brother, Paul. The Maclean family considers fly fishing a religion. The book starts with the line, "In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing" (page 1). Even Norman is older, he knows that his brother Paul "was going to be a master with a rod" (page 5) even when Paul is a child.

Over time, the brothers separate and lead very different lives, but they are reunited by fishing. Paul has, in his brother's eyes, been given a talent by God to be a masterful fisherman. However, off the river, Paul leads a life troubled by gambling and drinking. Norman attempts to understand his brother and help him, but his brother rebuffs all attempts to be helped. In the end, Paul dies after being beaten, probably by people he owes money. The resolution Norman comes to is that “You can love completely without complete understanding" (page 103). This is not a myopic or single understanding but a more complex one of the way in which people can love each other without understanding the other person's inner demons.