The American Dream in a River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

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About this sample


Words: 1405 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Jun 5, 2019

Words: 1405|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Jun 5, 2019

Again and again, the American Dream changes more rapidly than most decades have a chance to change. The novel, A River Runs Through It, written by Norman MacLean, suggests a cold feeling growing in the 1970s, one that took away from everyone's time to relax in nature, although there are bleak times of pride and joy that almost suggest that times are changing in their entirety (MacLean). Even such rock n' roll bands such as the great Led Zeppelin wrote songs that suggest these same themes in many of their songs. In "Good Times Bad Times", the band writes, "In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man, Now I've reached that age, I've tried to do all those things the best I can. No matter how I try, I find my way into the same old jam;

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Good Times, Bad Times, you know I had my share". (Led Zeppelin). The children of the 1960s were growing up, and many of them were finding it difficult to live in the time of this new technological age, along with many more political changes to come.

At the beginning part of the 1970s, the unbelievably costly Vietnam War was just ending. Many citizens of the United States were still extremely angry with the government for entering the war in the first place. The president who refused to pull the Americans out of Vietnam, Richard Nixon, was not particularly popular in the public's eyes. They had thought of him as a good president, but Vietnam took all of that trust away. They were happy partly because Nixon had visited China and had opened relations between bitter opponents. His downfall was the Watergate scandal and he resigned due to that. He had made promises that he could not keep (Nixon). Gerald Ford became the next President and promised more ideals that were tough to keep (Ford). In A River Runs Through It, there are many instances in which Norman MacLean talks about the government and how it has let down the people of America (MacLean).

In the 1970s, the cultural aspects were booming with success. Some of the greatest rock n'roll bands of all time started in the 70s. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, and The Who all made their marks in that decade. At the same time, a new musical craze began. Disco became the music that parties fed upon. Some of the most remembered movies also were created during the 70s. One of the most widely quoted movies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, was made then (Gilliam). Sometimes considered one of the greatest movies of all time, The Godfather left audiences in a state of excitement as they left the theater (Coppola). Finally, Jaws, the shark thriller, was also made in the same time period (Spielberg). The 70s were a time of inspiration, as shown by the culture, but also it shows some of the declination of the decade as well. A River Runs Through It includes another important aspect of the cultural significance of the 70s. Gambling was becoming large and more common during that time (MacLean).

War was still lingering in Americans' minds all throughout the 70s. Many even became paranoid with the whole situation. There was only an elite few who had very much trust in the government at the time. It was also a time of growing up for the "Flower Children" of the 1960s. They were pleasantly surprised with the new technology that was coming on quite fast. The first computer was released by Apple, which eventually set the stage for e-mail in the twenty-first century. Some television shows brought people together, especially "Happy Days (Marshall)." There was always the issue of racism in the 70s. George Wallace physically barred black students from entering the University of Alabama in the 60s. While campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, Wallace was shot and seriously injured. This was caused by his racist actions. Others still showed signs of extreme racism and did not approve of blacks continuing to integrate into white school districts. Another major issue was sexism. Women had not completely shed their role as the homemaker. They all wanted to have a bigger role in the world. There were some breakthroughs in the 60s, however. One of the most major of these was when girls were allowed into Little League Baseball for the first time in 1974. Even Coca-Cola tried to bring people together by presenting celebrities on commercials (Coke). Norman MacLean noticed the racism factor in A River Runs Through It, and knew that it was a big issue, because he seems to mention it a good amount in his novel (MacLean).

Many adults today remember the 70s extremely well. The historical aspects of this decade remain constant memories in these people's lives (Mosley). The U.S. went so far as to boycott the Olympics in Moscow in 1980, denying many athletes their one shot at a Gold Medal ("U.S. Boycotts Olympics"). The 70s are also remembered for being one of breakthroughs in technology. Betamax and VHS VCRs were first released in 1976, greatly increasing the profits for many film companies because people did not have to see movies in the theater any longer. As was stated previously, the first computer was created in the 70s, as well as some extremely important medical machines. The MRI machine and Ultrasound were used in the 70s for the first time, greatly increasing patients' chances of finding out what was wrong. Music was a big part of the 70s, also mentioned before, and the SONY Walkman helped push music forward farther into progress. A River Runs Through It acknowledges many of these events, and sometimes slightly mentions something that could relate to one of them (MacLean).

The Economy of the 70s progressed tremendously from start to finish. In 1970, 4,088,000 people had no job, and the population was only 204,879,000 strong. The life expectancy of the average male was 67.1 years, whereas the female population lived longer at an average of 74.8 years. The average salary for the working citizen was $7,564 a year, a much lower mark then is set today. Food prices have also changed at a dramatic rate. Milk was 33 cents a quart, bread was 24 cents a loaf, and a round steak cost just $1.30 a pound (Morrow). The 70s were a time of fairly high economical success, with some good amounts of prosperity coming. Norman MacLean talks occasionally about how money was never really an issue, which may lead the reader to believe that MacLean was referring to the economical success of the 70s (MacLean).

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Ever since James Truslow Adams first distinguished the American Dream in 1931, the conception of it has changed so rapidly that many people never really obtain the true meaning of the American Dream (Adams). Decade by decade, the American Dream stood for the way men wanted to live their lives. It all depended on the economy at the time, the technology, the politics, along with many more factors. In the 1970s, the American Dream had changed once again. Life was becoming more complicated, and many people just wanted to settle down and be calm with life. This is shown in Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It, in which the author suggests that America needed to get back to a simpler time, one more closely connected with nature (MacLean). The 70s were a time of raising the bar in technology. The Vietnam War had just ended, and America wanted to stay out of war. The politics were out of control, with the Watergate scandal and the resignation of Richard Nixon as President (Nixon). Today, America is once again struggling with war problems. Technology continues to develop at an extremely rapid pace. Some people are unhappy with the President again. Even though the two times seem very similar, the American Dream has changed. In the 70s, people were not as obsessed with the little wants associated with today's life. The American Dream in the 70s was one of peace and relaxation. Today, it is all about having the most money and getting to the top of everything. No one ever considers just sitting down for a minute to take in everything that's occurring in their life. Life is special for a reason. It's just a shame that no one will ever try to figure out that reason like many tried to in the 1970s.

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The American Dream in a River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. (2019, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
“The American Dream in a River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean.” GradesFixer, 14 May 2019,
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