Literature Study GuidesThe NaturalBatter Up Part 7 Summary

The Natural | Study Guide

Bernard Malamud

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The Natural | Batter Up!, Part 7 | Summary

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Summary

After Roy's home run for the injured boy, the team once again starts performing well, climbing back up the ranks until they are in third place. Roy plays well but suffers from terrible bouts of hunger. No matter how much he eats, he never feels satisfied. He eats whenever he can find food and always eats excessively. He travels around carrying a letter from Iris, whom he dumped promptly after sleeping with her. He can't get over the fact that she is a grandmother, and he also can't get over his still unreciprocated feelings for Memo. Memo has been visiting friends on the Cape, so Roy has not seen her in a few weeks. She visits Roy's room when she returns and gives him just enough affection to string him along. When he tries to lead her toward the bed, she insinuates that she has her period, which Roy doesn't understand.

The stands once again fill with excited fans eager to see the Knights succeed. Although they cheer Roy on, Roy hates them, vowing to never forget the way they treated him during his slump: "The more they cheered the colder he got to them." As Roy's star rises, Max Mercy becomes reinvigorated to uncover the secrets of Roy's past. He turns up nothing except a photograph of a circus clown that looks like Roy, which he publishes under the headline, "Roy Hobbs, Clown Prince of Baseball." The public barely acknowledges the article and Max finally relents. At dinner that night, Roy shows up dressed as a German waiter and dumps food all over Max as revenge. The team continues to do well and to everyone's delight makes the final playoffs. Whichever team wins the playoff wins the pennant and advances to the World Series. Pop is beside himself and warns all the players to live quiet lives without celebration until after the playoff.

Shortly after, Roy drops in on Memo unannounced. She sits playing cards in her apartment with Gus, which annoys Roy now that he and Memo are back together. Begrudgingly, Roy joins them in a game of craps. Gus quickly wins a large sum of money from Roy, but the fates switch and the game ends with Gus owing Roy $2,100. As Gus hands over the check, he insinuates that Roy could win a lot more money fixing games. Angered, Roy threatens to "spit in [Gus's] good eye" should he make a suggestion like that again.

After the card game, Roy once again falls into a rut, "though not exactly a slump," and he feels terribly drained. He is still eating ravenously and yearning terribly for Memo. He pictures a quiet, domestic life with Memo but knows Iris would have been much better suited to the lifestyle. Still he is desperate to sleep with Memo again, but she refuses. She continues to string Roy along, praising his success on the team, even admitting that he's a better player than Bump. Again, Roy tries to instigate sex, and with tears in her eyes, Memo refuses. Roy persists, and she finally agrees to have sex with him later that evening, after a celebratory buffet she has arranged for the team. Given Pop's warning, Roy hesitates, but he will do anything Memo asks.

At the party the rest of the players look around nervously. Memo admits the immense buffet was paid for by Gus. Looking around, Roy sees the discomfort of the rest of the team and regrets dragging them out. In his desperation to sleep with Memo, however, he pretends everything is fine. He eats plate after plate of food, with Memo telling the chef exactly what to pile on Roy's plate. As he eats, he has the feeling of "both having something and wanting it the same minute he was having it." All the while Memo tells him about her childhood, then encourages Roy to tell her about his own. Unlike with Iris, Roy refuses to tell Memo the truth. When Memo excuses herself to speak with friends, players begin approaching Roy asking him to call off the party. Roy begins to panic, feeling flushed and hot, thinking of Iris and her letter. He feels drunk but attributes it to the immense amount of food he's just eaten. He drags himself out of the party and down to the hotel restaurant where he quickly eats six hamburgers. After his meal, he lumbers back up to Memo's room where she's waiting naked on the bed. As Roy comes toward her his stomach bursts and he passes out.

Analysis

Roy's desire to return to Memo after his fling with Iris intensifies the contrast between these female characters. Memo remains as unattainable as Pop's pennant, yet Roy continues to pursue her. Iris, on the other hand, is available and wishes to start a life with Roy. Less attractive than Memo, Iris does not fit into Roy's image of success, so he dumps her. Roy fantasizes about marrying Memo, buying a house, and raising a child together, although Memo would never want that life. Roy admits that the fantasy fits better with Iris than Memo, but the idea of becoming a grandfather at 34 terrifies him. References to Roy's past give further insight into why he might be running from the stability Iris offers. Roy hints at a memory of his mother "ruining" his father's life, which might explain his aversion to family life. Interestingly, children and grandchildren are a living legacy, which should appeal to a man like Roy, but he is only interested in the hollow, selfish legacy of fame.

After choosing Memo over Iris, Roy's life feels empty, a sensation he tries to abate through over consumption. Memo was "like all the food he had lately been eating," which left him "unsatisfied, sometimes even with a greater hunger than before." Just as before, Roy continues to chase after superficial pleasures: sex, money, and breaking records. As soon as one is consumed he chases after the next: "He couldn't stop hitting and every hit made him hungry for the next." Memo maintains his interest because she plays hard to get. Food is just like these superficial pleasures, which is why Roy is never full. And his appetite is linked to his lust for Memo: "Every mouthful seemed to have the effect of increasing his desire for [Memo]." In the end his over consumption leads to disaster, just as it will in his personal life.

Memo's role as a femme fatale is cemented at the banquet. Gus, who paid for the banquet, has been interested in fixing games for profits and will clearly profit from Roy missing the final game. Memo seems to be in on the trick, first luring Roy to the party and then carefully choosing the food he eats. When Roy grows sick of eating the same food, she offers to have the same food mixed up into different combinations rather than offering him something different. Roy's pursuit of superficial pleasure, driven solely by his ego, leaves him vulnerable to Memo's selfish plot. At the end of the chapter, when Roy enters Memo's room, he sees Memo as a "green-eyed siren guarding the forbidden flame"—a similar image to the mermaid pulling him under the murky water. The polluted water imagery, similar to the murky underworld and polluted stream of their first date, comes up again as Roy hears a toilet flush: "Though the hero braced himself against it, a rush of dirty water ... sucked him under."

Roy's inability to embody the true characteristics of a hero highlight his character's stagnation. Iris likened Roy to a hero when she watched him play, saying of heroes, "I don't think you can do anything for anyone without giving up something of your own." A few pages later Roy admits to hating baseball because it "represented more of himself than he was willing to give away for nothing." His relentless pursuit of selfish pleasure proves Roy is not interested in self-sacrifice, true heroism, or character growth. He will continue to chase after "bad balls" like Memo because they are more satisfactory to hit. Pop warns Roy to stay away from Memo, but Roy refuses to listen. In the same way, Roy ignores Pop's request not to celebrate. His behavior mirrors Bump's, with the rest of the team following his antics despite their discomfort: at the banquet, they look unhappily at each other "as if they were all waiting for a signal to get up and leave." Again, Roy does not care about his fellow players' discomfort, even when one player begs him to call off the party, saying, "They are afraid to stay here but they don't go because you stay." Roy proves again and again his incapacity of being a team player or hero.

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