Every individual has two lives, the life we live, and the life we live after that. Nobody is perfect, but if one works hard enough, he/she can stay away from failure. The Natural is a novel written by Bernard Malamud. It is Bernard Malamud’s first novel that initially received mixed reactions, but afterwards, it was regarded as an outstanding piece of literature. It is a story about Roy Hobbs who, after making mistakes in his life, he returns the bribery money and is left with self-hatred for mistakes he has done. Hobbs was a baseball player who aspired to be famous, but because of his carnal and materialistic desire, his quest for heroism failed, as he was left with nothing. In the modern world, the quest for heroism is a difficult struggle; this can be seen through the protagonist in The Natural.
Bernard Malamud was born in Brooklyn, on April 25, 1914. He was the eldest son in their family. The son of Max and Bertha also known as, Fidel man emigrated from Russia, and ran a grocery store in Brooklyn. In his family, great emphasis was placed on the cultural aspects of Judaism, despite the fact that the family spoke both English and Yiddish. According to Abramson (23), Malamud spent a significant time of his life in the Yiddish theater located on the Manhattan’s second avenue, and reading novels from different writers including Horatio Alger. Malamud’s teachers and father encouraged him to develop his talent of story telling. He graduated with a B.A. from City College of New York in 1936. He married Anne de Charia in 1945, and they got a son named Paul. Later on Malamud wrote his first novel, The Natural, a book that has been considered the best-written piece by him.
Malamud writes his book in style. The Natural is a book with many levels; first it is considered as a sports book, and secondly, as an initiation story. As a sports book, The Natural talks about the rise and fall of a young man named Roy Hobbs (Avery 67). Hobbs was a man with the potential of becoming a baseball superstar and a hero. His immaturity could not take him where he wished to be, the best baseball player. A deranged woman shot him in a hotel room while in Chicago. Hobbs could have turned out to be the best baseball player, but his carnal desires and immaturity led to his downfall. He was a good player, but his materialisms and carnal desire fail him. He was demanding a high reward for his success in the team, and gets involved with Memo. Hobbs is later on paid by the judge to lose the Knight's final game, which he accepts. After it was discovered that he was paid to throw away the game, Hobbs was expelled from the Knights and his records cancelled too. This was his downfall because of the lust for material things. Through Hobbs life, Malamud symbolizes the best and the worst baseball can offer to its players. Hobbs made mistakes in his career as a baseball player, and he never matured. In addition, he chose money, fame, and temptation instead of choosing a moral humble life. His stupidity and blindness led to his downfall.
As an initiation story, Roy Hobbs is depicted as a white-faced pitcher who has been out of the Northwest High School League for a year. Despite being out for a year, Hobbs announces that, he wishes to be “the best there ever was in the game” (Malamud 33). He was determined to go back to what he was doing, but his pride landed him a silver bullet in a Chicago Hotel room. However, even after this, Hobbs tries to play the major leagues, but because of his carnal lust, and immaturity, he throws away a game. In the end of the story, he regrets his actions when he says, “I never did learn anything out of my past life, now I have to suffer again.” This was the end of his heroic quest, which he never achieved.
The Natural is a book that blends. Malamud mixes the reality of American baseball with heroic myth (Ducharme 102). He uses a poetic style to render moments of sheer terror. When Harriet shoots Hobbs, the narrator describes this situation lyrically saying, “The bullet cut a silver line across the water, he sought with his bare hands to catch it, but it eluded him and, to his horror, bounced into his gut” (Malamud 98). This is trying to explain how Roy Hobbs was trying to defend himself from the bullet.
The negative effects pride, materialism, and carnal desires can have on an individual is shown in Malamud’s book The Natural. In addition, it warns that, achievement cannot be earned through unsuspecting arrogance, materialistic desires and carnal desires. The protagonist was left alone and defeated, as he achieved nothing, because of his misbehavior. Early in the novel, Hobbs was determined to become a hero of his own. At the end of the novel, he hates himself for the mistakes he did, and they robbed him of his career and heroism he desired. Roy Hobbs hero quest was misguided because, he only wished to be the best that has ever been and not for his team, and this led to his downfall. He was switching between success and failure, but in the end, he made a grave mistake that killed his career as a baseball player. The author used baseball as a vehicle to explore pride, greed, desire and fate of individuals.
Malamud obviously views pride and greed as a powerful influence on an individual’s success. In a similar way, an individual cannot thrive through greed and carnal desire. Hobbs thought that he would become a hero through greed, whereby he betrayed his fellow players and fans by receiving a bribe. Through his immoral choices, he lost everything, including all he had won, while struggling to be the best baseball player.
The protagonist in The Natural is just like anyone else, everyone makes mistakes. The biggest mistake Hobbs made was ignoring the letter from Iris. This mistake made him through away his dreams of being the best baseball player he could. Wasserman asserts that, Roy could have woken up and seized the opportunity of having a happy life, and avoiding the wrong people, for the wrong reasons (78). Iris was raped and had a child, but that did not let her down, she turned her life around and even tried to save Hobbs from destruction. She met Hobbs for a date and this could have changed his life from Memo, but he refused to seize the opportunity. All Roy wanted was to make a name in the record boos, and to get a woman who was already out of his reach. The protagonist spent his time chasing the wrong things because of his self-centeredness and foolish cravings.
The Natural is a book that follows Roy Hobbs baseball career and his quest for heroism. Hobbs a was a talented player, but his success was overshadowed by his failures. He tried hard, but he could not achieve his goals. His situation is relatable to the audience even if one is not a baseball player. The book teaches the audience to avoid company and mistakes that can rob them their success. Roy Hobbs misfortunes remind the readers how some obstacles can alter someone’s dreams.
Malamud, Bernard. The Natural. Ney York, New York: Avon Books, 1952. Print.
Wasserman, Earl. "The Natural: Malamud's World Ceres" in Modern Critical Views: Bernard Malamud. Harold Bloom, ed. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. Print.
Abramson, Edward. Bernard Malamud Revisited. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993. Print.
Avery, Evelyn, ed. The Magic Worlds of Bernard Malamud. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001. Print.
Ducharme, Robert. Art and Idea in the Novels of Bernard Malamud: Toward the Fixer. The Hague: Mouton, 1974. Print.