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The Natural | Study Guide

Bernard Malamud

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The Natural | Batter Up!, Part 6 | Summary



Iris, the woman in the red dress, waits for Roy in a nearby park. It feels natural for her to be here, although she fears she will be hurt. She contemplates the weather as she waits, attuned to both the present and the past: "the gooseflesh was not for now but another time, long ago." When Roy pulls up, he feels let down by Iris's appearance. He thinks, "She was much heavier than he had thought ... He didn't like them hefty," though he realizes in actuality that "it couldn't be said that she really was." Iris, too, is slightly disappointed: "He seemed so big and bulky next to her." Roy wishes he were picking up Memo instead of Iris but immediately feels bitter for the foul way Memo has been treating him.

As he and Iris drive away, he feels free. They drive to the lake and sit by the water to talk. Iris explains that she felt drawn to Roy during his slump: "I hate to see a hero fail. There are so few of them." Roy feels strangely at home with Iris, resting his head on her lap as she talks. He tells her things about his past that he's never told anyone, including his big secret about being shot 15 years earlier. The two solemnly swear that they'll never hurt each other, and they strip off their clothes to swim naked in the water. Roy tries to kiss Iris but she pulls away from him. Embarrassed, Roy sinks to the bottom of the lake, terrifying her. When he finally swims to the surface, Iris is beside herself. She clings to him and kisses him passionately. They swim back to shore and make love. In the middle of it, Iris blurts out that she's a grandmother, but Roy ignores her and continues on almost violently.


Iris is clearly the vegetative goddess who can offer Roy the ultimate happiness and success. She is the opposite of Memo in every way: where Memo is thin, Iris is heavy or "full," as with life-giving energy; she has an ample, nurturing breast while Memo has a "sick" breast; and Iris is concerned with Roy's morality, while Memo is only concerned with his money. Although Roy is initially disappointed in Iris's appearance, he feels comfortable enough in her presence to share secrets about his past, and he appreciates that Iris stood up for him when he knows Memo never would have.

The difference between Iris and Memo is again highlighted when Roy dives underwater. While hypnotized in Part 2, Roy imagines Memo as a mermaid pulling him deeper and deeper in the murk. But Iris searches for Roy underwater: when he's swimming toward her, Roy sees the moonlight filtering through the water and her "golden arms searching, and a golden head with a frantic face. Even her hair sought him." The narrator describes Iris as "golden," or bathed in light. She is Roy's savior while Memo is his destruction.

Yet Roy is still too immature to recognize the difference between the women, which will ultimately lead to his destruction. He simply wants to sleep with Iris, and as with Memo, he isn't interested in learning about her. When Iris tries to communicate with Roy about being a grandmother, he "shoves[s] her back" and carries on having sex with her. The wording here is very important. Roy disrespects and violates Iris by pushing her down during sex. In the same way, he pushes away the opportunities Iris offers, concerned only with his personal satisfaction and gain.

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