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The Natural | Study Guide

Bernard Malamud

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The Natural | Batter Up!, Part 3 | Summary



Bump's death devastates Memo, particularly because they had been fighting when he died. Roy continues to pine after her, hoping her grieving will soon be over. Eventually, he sees her negative feelings about him "fade to something neutral which he slowly [becomes] confident he could beat." Obviously Bump died trying to compete with Roy, so Pop tells Roy not to be too hard on himself. Roy had not thought of it that way and momentarily feels bad before clearing his conscience. Over time everyone except Memo and Otto P. Zipp move on from the death. Roy quickly rises to fame as the best player on the team but is annoyed that newspapers continue to compare him to the deceased Bump. In his success Roy fights constantly for fame. He refuses to bunt, for example, preferring to hit the ball as far and hard as he can. Through Roy's efforts, the team begins crawling its way up the standings. While the original Knights "fans" usually came to mock the players and throw rotten vegetables at them, now genuine fans begin showing up at the games, cheering them on. The weather improves and Pop's athlete's foot clears. As the team improves, fans demand to know more about Roy and where he came from, but reporters can't find any information about Roy's past.

With all the great press and ticket sales Roy has been bringing the team, he approaches Judge Banner to ask for a raise. Although he had been signed with a salary of $3,000, he requests $45,000, $10,000 more than Bump received. The judge refuses, doling out clichéd advice about how "money is the root of all evil" and refusing to answer Roy's requests directly. Roy drops to $35,000, then $25,000, then finally $15,000, but the judge flatly refuses. Before he excuses Roy, he hands him a bill for the uniform Bump destroyed during his hazing. Roy is incensed. Outside the Judge's office, Roy unloads his frustrations on the journalist Max Mercy, who diligently writes down the facts and releases the information to the public the next day. That night Max takes Roy to the Pot of Fire, a club where Memo and the bookie Gus Sands regularly hang out. Roy learns that Gus is the "Supreme Bookie" who makes millions of dollars a year. Roy's success angers Gus: "That'll cost me a pretty penny ... I was betting against you today, slugger." He claims his glass eye gives him visions of the future, which he uses to hedge bets. He offers to show Roy how it works, quickly winning $600 off him. Roy is flabbergasted, especially because he's already broke—but turns down Gus's offer to forgive the debt and owe him a "favor." Roy slips away from the table and returns moments later dressed as the waiter. He humiliates Gus and Max by "grabb[ing] the bookie's nose and yank[ing]," but makes Memo laugh.


In this part the people around Roy embody his three chief desires: Memo represents sex, Gus represents money, and Max represents fame. Roy cares deeply what these people think of him, and they challenge him to maintain his morality in their presence. For example, Gus offers to forgive Roy's debt in exchange for a "favor," which will almost certainly be immoral. Max desperately tries to uncover Roy's background, yet Roy maintains a fierce control over the information about his past. Roy is at his weakest with Memo. While she remains uninterested, Roy would do almost anything for her affection. But Roy's obsession with Memo is based almost entirely on her beauty. His infatuation is entirely superficial. He loves Memo because she will be a beautiful addition to the glorious life he envisions for himself. After Sam's death, Roy fails to make meaningful connections with anyone in his life, interested only in people who can elevate his image. Roy does not even like his fans, viewing them also as accessories to fame. Otto P. Zipp first notices this, and he despises Roy for brushing off his attention. While Roy and Bump are similar in their singular quest for fame, Bump plays to the crowds during his successful career, making them feel part of the dream, while Roy excludes anyone and everyone who can't offer him sex, money, or glory.

Despite Roy's isolation, his talent has clearly broken the team's curse. Everything improves—the team climbs up the ranks, Pop's athlete's foot heals, true fans begin attending games, and the field becomes lush and green. While Pop had originally been skeptical of Roy's success as beginner's luck, he begins to trust in Roy's ability, becoming a happier, better coach in the process.

Yet as Roy's star rises, he interacts with many immoral characters, all of which have problems with their vision. The judge cannot stand bright light, Gus has a glass eye, and Memo's eyes are regularly described as cloudy with tears. Their impaired vision indicates their dark outlook of the world, viewing life without clarity or honesty. This part gives clear insight into the Judge's character when Roy asks for a raise. The judge has already been characterized as stingy—he sends injured players to a maternity ward rather than the emergency room because he has a deal with a doctor there—so it is unsurprising that the judge denies Roy's raise request. The "crooked tower" where the judge lives in darkness further shows his immoral dealings.

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