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The Prodigal Son Parable and Maclean’s A River Runs Through It . By Patrick K. Dooley. Credibility of Author . Ph.D. Philosophy Seminary Degree Professor of Philosophy at St. Bonaventure . Credibility of Text.
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The Prodigal Son Parable and Maclean’s A River Runs Through It By Patrick K. Dooley
Credibility of Author • Ph.D. Philosophy • Seminary Degree • Professor of Philosophy at St. Bonaventure
Credibility of Text • Critical essay published in academic journal Renascence: Essays On Values In Literature
Main Point • While not the story's main influence, the prodigal son parable found in Luke is a definite theme in A River Runs Through It and provides a powerful perspective from which to view the story, particularly in regard to the relationships of the three main characters.
“I argue that the "brother's keeper" provides the story's dominant motif, and unmistakable parallels between the biblical parable of a father and his two sons and the bitter-sweet memoir of life in Montana during the 1920s enrich our appreciation of Maclean's artful storytelling.” (3)
“Reverend Maclean realizes that his son is richly talented, charmingly likable and amply blessed--that is, that he has been divinely gifted and graced. Perhaps it is because his parents and older brother sense that Paul is a special person upon whom God's favor rests that their basic mode of dealing with him is a hands-off policy.” (8)
“A River Runs through It, then, presents us with a flawed but gifted and attractive hero who needs help. Does Paul understand his own situation and does he want to be helped? Yes and no, just like the Prodigal Son who, when the great famine hits, takes some initiative by attaching himself to a land owner who has him feed his pigs. But then the Prodigal Son inexplicably and passively waits for someone to feed him, "And he would have gladly filled himself on the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything" (LK 15:16).”(13)
Poor Reasoning, Fallacies, and Outright Lies • Dooley makes a few connections in the essay between the father’s love as expressed in the A River Runs Through It, and the father’s love as expressed in the Biblical parable that we feel were rather weak.
That aside, the essay provides a good insight into a previously unexplored influence found in Maclean’s work.
Works Cited • Dooley, Patrick K. "The prodigal son parable and Maclean's A River Runs through It." Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 58.2 (2005): 165+. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Apr. 2010.