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25 A River Runs Through It Quotes From Novella & Film

These inspiring and thought-provoking quotes from A River Runs Through It will have you reflecting on life.

Let us know your favorite one in the comment section below.

The novella, A River Runs Through It was published in 1976 and is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story.

Norman Maclean recounts the tale of two brothers with differing views on life.

Their father is a Presbyterian minister, and one brother follows in his religious footsteps while the other is more studious.

The story takes place in the Rocky Mountain region and spans from World War I to the Great Depression.

If you haven’t read the book, you might have seen the film, which premiered in 1992.

It had a noteworthy cast including Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, and Emily Lloyd, and was directed by Robert Redford.

These A River Runs Through It quotes include those from the movie and the book.

There are several A River Runs Through It quotes about Montana, and the beautiful sunsets, which makes sense as the story is set in and around Missoula, Montana.

Fly-fishing, which is a popular pastime of Montanans, has several significant scenes and contributes to some themes of the book and movie.

The film was moving and sad, but audiences loved it, as evidenced by the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

It was also nominated for Best Music, Original Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

It also grossed over $66 million dollars.

Keep reading these A River Runs Through It quotes to learn some interesting movie tidbits, like which poem was quoted in the film

A River Runs Through It quotes from the movie

1. “And I knew just as surely, just as clearly, that life is not a work of art, and that the moment could not last.” Norman Maclean (Craig Sheffer)

2. “For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us.” Reverend MacLean (Tom Skerritt)

3. “Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted.” Reverend MacLean (Tom Skerritt)

4. “Each one of here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed?” Reverend MacLean (Tom Skerritt)

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5. “Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.” Narrator (Robert Redford)

6. “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.” Narrator (Robert Redford)

7. “My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.” Narrator (Robert Redford)

8. “Dear Jesse, as the moon lingers a moment over the bitterroots, before its descent into the invisible, my mind is filled with song.” Norman Maclean (Craig Sheffer)

9. “I find I am humming softly; not to the music, but something else; some place else; a place remembered; a field of grass where no one seemed to have been; except a deer; and the memory is strengthened by the feeling of you, dancing in my awkward arms.” Norman Maclean (Craig Sheffer)

10. “Oh, I’ll never leave Montana, brother.” Reverend MacLean (Tom Skerritt)

A River Runs Through It quotes about love, life, and helping others

11. “We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

12. “After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don’t you make up a story and the people that go with it? Only then will you understand what happened and why.It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

13. “Nearly all those I loved and did not understand … are dead, but I still reach out to them.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

14. “I did not know that stories of life are often more like rivers than books.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

15. “The nearest anyone can come to finding himself at any given age is to find a story that somehow tells him about himself.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

16. “Slowly we became silent, and silence itself is an enemy to friendship.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

17. “She was one of the most beautiful dancers I’ve ever seen. She made her partner feel as if he were about to be left behind, or already had been. It is a strange and wonderful and somewhat embarrassing feeling to hold someone in your arms who is trying to detach you from the earth and you aren’t good enough to follow her.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

18. “Maybe so,” my brother replied. “But maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

19. “Help,” he said, “is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

20. “So it is,” he said, using an old homiletic transition, “that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

21. “Yet even in the loneliness of the canyon I knew there were others like me who had brothers they did not understand but wanted to help.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It quotes about fishing and being a fisherman

22. “Poets talk about ‘spots of time’, but it is really fishermen who experience eternity compressed into a moment. No one can tell what a spot of time is until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

23. “Something within fishermen tries to make fishing into a world perfect and apart – I don’t know what it is or where, because sometimes it is in my arms and sometimes in my throat and sometimes nowhere in particular except somewhere deep.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

24. “Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

25. “One great thing about fly-fishing is that after a while nothing exists of the world but thoughts about fly-fishing.” ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

What did you take away from A River Runs Through It?

The film spends a great deal of time on relationships, delving into romantic relationships and the relationship between brothers and fathers and sons.

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Leaving childhood and being drug into adulthood is another central theme, so It seems fitting that the poem quoted would be Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth.

Final words of thought from the film

The final words of A River Runs Through It sum up the idea of family and life perfectly.

The scene features an Elderly Norman Maclean, played by Montanan Arnold Richardson, fishing in the river.

The iconic image is often associated with the film, as are these words he speaks:

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.

The river was cut by the world’s great flood and ran over rocks from the basement of time.

On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops.

Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.”

You might have recognized these words from the quotes above, but there is something powerful about seeing them all together in one place while visualizing the end of the film.

If you haven’t seen A River Runs Through It yet, you can do so on Hulu, Apple Tv, VUDU, and several other streaming services!

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor
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