'Continental divide' symbolizes a generation gap between the old generation and young, between father and his sons. This theme can be explained as a gap between past and future which never meet. Maclean vividly portrays that in spite of personal differences, father tries to teach his sons ideals of love and faith, goodness and morality. "Always it was to be called a rod. If someone called it a pole, my father looked at him as a sergeant in the United States Marines would look at a recruit who had just called a rifle a gun" (Maclean 3). Maclean unveils that parents very often take much pains to develop talented and multiple personality, but they do not take into account children's inclinations and desires insisting on their own will and dreams. The conflicts between social values and necessity become a part of the story.
'Continental Divide" symbolizes two different worlds: the world of religion and the world of fishing. The river and the land are depicted as powerful creatures control humans. The power of the river is its natural beauty, which lies in the way it 'represents herself'. "We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others" (Maclean 1). For the main character, religion and fishing mean independence and personal freedom. The beauty of nature is in contrast with the inner state of a man. With the help of this metaphor, Maclean depicts a gap between spiritual world and material culture which influences life of the family. Maclean writes:
Until man is redeemed he will always take a fly rod too far back, just as natural man always overswings with an ax or golf club and loses all his power somewhere in the air: only with a rod it's worse, because the fly often comes so far back it gets caught behind in a bush or rock (4).
The fishing serves as a symbol that represents moral dilemma and faith, the desire to find old truth, and the symbol of maternity. Many times, the heroes' lives get dramatized by the story into something bigger than it actually is but this is what society has grown to expect in a traditional sense. The father teaches his sons that morality is created by God, those who reject faith are in turn rejecting individualistic way of life. The conflict between the heroes helps Maclean to depict that some might feel that if there is no reason for making these choices then there is no point in making decisions at all. This can be referred to those which are consciously aware of themselves which makes it impossible for us to avoid making choices even if they are meaningless.
'Continental Divide" symbolizes life paths of two brothers and their lifer choices. Maclean portrays that the state of maturity cannot be measured by knowledge level in life struggles. It is an attitude of a person towards life, his ability to rule it and the ability to accept the consequences of his actions. 'We had to be very careful in dealing with each other. I often thought of him as a boy, but I never could treat him that way. He was never "my kid brother." He was a master of an art" (Maclean 7). Maclean portrays