Literature Study GuidesThe NaturalBatter Up Part 4 Summary

The Natural | Study Guide

Bernard Malamud

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The Natural | Batter Up!, Part 4 | Summary

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Summary

It is Roy Hobbs Day. After Max's article about the judge's refusal to give Roy a raise, donations from fans pour in, including television sets, a tractor, food, land in Florida, a boat, comic books, and a new car. Although moved by the gifts, Roy tries to sell whatever he can for cash. The best part of the day, however, comes when Memo finally agrees to go on a date with him. He sheepishly picks her up in his new Mercedes to drive her to the beach. Memo gets tired on the way and asks Roy to pull over whenever he sees water. Distracted by the feeling that they're being followed, Roy pulls over at a polluted swimming hole. They sit by the water, silent and awkward. Whenever Roy attempts to change the topic, Memo brings their conversation back to Bump. She insinuates that Roy isn't as fun to watch playing baseball because everyone knows he will catch the ball, whereas Bump's performance left some mystery. She tells Roy a bit about her personal history—she was a beauty queen before trying to become an actress; she failed and felt lonely in New York until she met Bump—but Roy doesn't really care. She complains of being terribly depressed since Bump's death. Roy wants to tell Memo about his past as well, but something stops him. He grabs Memo and tries to kiss her, but she pulls away. He tries to touch her breast, and she yelps that it hurts, claiming her breast is "sick." She runs back to the car and drives off, with Roy jumping into the passenger seat as she pulls away. She drives recklessly without the lights on through the curvy, wooded roads. Roy yells at her to slow down, but she refuses. There is a loud thump—clearly they've hit something, and Roy thinks it was a boy with a dog—but Memo drives on. She shouts that they're being followed by the police. Roy hollers for her to pull over and lose the cops. When he takes over driving, Roy searches the winding roads to find what they hit, accidentally driving off the road and wrecking the car.

When Roy returns to the hotel, Pop sits waiting. Seeing Roy's black eye from the accident, Pop loses his temper, shouting that Roy is being reckless with the team's success. He warns Roy to stay away from Memo because "there is some kind of whammy in her that carries her luck to other people" and because she will "snarl you up in her trouble in a way that will weaken your strength." Roy refuses to heed Pop's warning, claiming to be in love with Memo. Softening, Pop gives Roy a personal check for $2,000 to thank him for the hard work he's done with the team: "My boy, if you knew what you mean to me—." Roy accepts the check and tries to return to his room. Max hears Roy coming and tries to photograph his black eye. Roy sprints away from him through the dark hotel, but his mind is overwhelmed with strange images of a boy and his dog being run over by a speeding car.

Analysis

Roy Hobbs Day reveals much about Roy's relationship with his fans. They adore him, so much so that they lavish him with expensive and occasionally strange gifts, including "two television sets, a baby tractor, five hundred feet of pink plastic garden hose, a nanny goat," and much more. The wide-ranging gifts give insight into the type of fans Roy has attracted. He has unified fans from all walks of life, yet he doesn't seem to care: "the local everyday fans had contributed all sorts of small change and single bucks" to buy the gifts, but Roy asks a coach to "sell whatever he could for cash." Roy doesn't want to connect with his fans. He remains concerned only with money, glory, and sex. He delights in using the publicity from Roy Hobbs Day to publicly ask Memo on a date. In front of the crowd, she cannot say no.

The disastrous date shows what a negative force Memo represents in Roy's life. Despite claiming to be in love with her, Roy is ill at ease in Memo's presence. He has a nagging feeling that they're being followed, he's romantically awkward, and he doesn't feel safe to tell Memo the truth about his past. The only thing Roy is drawn to is Memo's beauty, which is incredibly frustrating for the reader who sees Roy giving up his talent and future to a woman who frankly despises him. Memo spends the entire date talking about Bump because she still loves him. Again, Roy does not really care because he wants sex and will stop at nothing to get it. There are further hints of disaster in the date. The water, typically a symbol of regeneration in the novel, is poisoned where they stop to picnic. When Roy tries to grope Memo, she complains of having a "sick" breast. A woman's breast symbolizes her nurturing nature, and the fact that Memo's cannot even be touched symbolizes her cold nature. In this regard she is contrasted to Iris, who describes breastfeeding her daughter. Immediately after the date, Roy begins to feel weak, tired, and battered—as if he had been "running for ages"—which supports Pop's assertion that Memo will "snarl you up in her trouble in a way that will weaken your strength."

The imagery of Memo running over the boy foreshadows the destruction of Roy's innocence. Roy feels certain that Memo hit the boy while racing away, but Memo insists it was a log. When they pull over there is no blood on the bumper, which supports Memo's theory. Readers may remember Roy thinking he sees a boy playing ball at the edge of the woods, but the boy also morphs into memories of himself, making it unclear whether or not the boy is real. Through this image Malamud shows that Roy's obsession with his shallow definition of success casts him as a tragic hero destined to fail.

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