Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Washington Park

*Washington Park. Public park in San Francisco, California, that is meticulously described in the first pages of the novel. The park is named after George Washington, one of the Founders of America. Within the park is a statue of another Founder, Benjamin Franklin, whose autobiography and aphorisms are famous for their optimism. The statue’s four-sided base has the word “welcome” on each side. The park, however, is not filled with optimistic Americans opening their arms to strangers. Rather, winos hang around waiting for sandwiches to be distributed to them. The narrator reflects on the gap between the literary America represented by Franklin, and the actuality of the park. While average Americans hurry past on their errands, the narrator wastes time with the winos, including a man named “Trout Fishing in America Shorty,” who is confined to a wheelchair. The narrator recalls that it was one of his stepfathers, a drunk, who first told him about fishing for trout and about the great beauty of trout. If any Americans still appreciate the beauty and romance of nature, they are the bums, drifters, and assorted poor who have no place in the society around them, which views nature as a commodity.

The book’s winos—including a boy who is a Kool-Aid wino—enjoy one advantage over more productive members of society: They still have imaginations. They talk with passion about improbable and hypothetical things,...

(The entire section is 549 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The book comprises forty-seven "chapters," actually semi-autonomous prose poems or vignettes. There is no obvious narrative, and many critics...

(The entire section is 287 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although published in 1967 and popularized as a counterculture book, Trout Fishing in America was written in 1961 as a late expression...

(The entire section is 161 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The attitude of general acceptance that pervades Trout Fishing in America and Brautigan's democratic use of diverse cultural materials...

(The entire section is 199 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Revenge of the Lawn: Stories 1962-1970 (1971) contains the "lost chapters" of Trout Fishing in America, two pieces intended for...

(The entire section is 45 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Chenetier, Marc. Richard Brautigan. London: Methuen, 1983. Introduces all of Brautigan’s writing in the light of his surrealist and deconstructionist fictional theories. Sees Trout Fishing in America as a series of images that create a network of narrative meaning.

Foster, Edward Halsey. Richard Brautigan. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Good single-volume introduction to Brautigan’s life and work, showing how Brautigan drew upon his experiences.

Legler, Gretchen. “Brautigan’s Waters.” CEA Critic: An Official Journal of the College English Association 54, no. 1 (Fall, 1991): 67-69. Analysis of Brautigan’s treatment of nature and water in the novel.

Seib, Kenneth. “Trout Fishing in America: Brautigan’s Funky Fishing Yarn.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 13, no. 2 (1971): 63-71. Analyzes the theme of trout fishing, showing how it functions in various ways to give the book unified form, viewpoint, and meaning.

Stull, William L. “Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America: Notes of a Native Son.” American Literature 56 (March, 1964): 68-80. Discusses the themes and motifs of the book, and explains many of Brautigan’s allusions.