When Not Knowing is Understanding
“Help [. . .] is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly,” declared the father of narrator and author of A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean (Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, NY: Pocket Books-Simon & Schuster, 1992-1976, 1-113, 89. Print. All subsequent quotations are documented by page number only.). Norman's attempt at helping people throughout the book is obvious as he is contrasted with a brilliant man who fly-fishes at a tremendous level, his brother Paul; however, Paul had a problem that was detrimental to his health and eventually led to his death in a bar fight. Norman's father, a minister, thought highly of Paul, telling Norman, “He was beautiful,” in which Norman responded with an agreement complimenting the fine father he had, “He should have been—you taught him” (112). Norman's driving care and love towards anybody who would take it makes him a very admirable character in A River Runs Through It. As Paul and his girlfriend sat in jail, they did not know that Norman would come pick them up. When he did, though, Paul was speechless. Most of it was that he did not want to talk about his arrest, but a small part of it may have been his shock that Norman would come to pick his own brother up from a jail. Many times, people with brothers would not think of going to get his or her brother from a jail. Norman cared deeply for Paul, and he understood Paul, so when the desk sergeant at the jail told Norman that they were picking him up too much and that Paul was “drinking too much,” Norman had had enough with people telling him about Paul's troubles (26). This is more proof that Norman understood Paul. He understood him enough that he knew about Paul's trouble and was tired of people telling him about stuff that he already knows, but as Norman learns more about Paul's drinking, the more he wants to help him. So he tries....
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