The Prodigal Son Parable and McLean*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 handsoff 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
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.

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