Literature Study GuidesThe NaturalBatter Up Part 8 Summary

The Natural | Study Guide

Bernard Malamud

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The Natural | Batter Up!, Part 8 | Summary



Roy wakes up in the maternity ward of the hospital near Knights Field because the judge has secured a cheap deal with a doctor there. At first, doctors rush around preparing to give Roy an appendectomy but as they lift the scalpel, they realize his appendix has already been removed. Desperate crowds gather at the hospital waiting to hear whether Roy will be well enough to play the final game, and possibly the World Series. After having his stomach pumped, Roy lies in the hospital bed with a terrible fever, hallucinating. He sees strange images of himself as a dwarf, of Iris's head on Memo's body, and of himself eating his own flesh. The doctor tells him that he can play in the final game, but it will be the last of his baseball career. Roy goes into complete denial, sneaking out of bed for a secret batting practice at the field. He has to be carried back to the hospital shortly after. That night he dreams about talking with Sam Shepherd. When he wakes, Roy resolves to make as much money as he can before being forced to retire from the game. He hopes to make $25,000, which he can invest in a restaurant and possibly double. Maybe that will be enough, he thinks, to impress Memo into marrying him.

When Memo finally visits Roy at the hospital, she looks sickly and exhausted. She wears the same clothes from days earlier and her unwashed hair smells: "Oh, Roy, I can't stand it any longer, I can't," she weeps. Desperate and afraid, she swears she can't go on with her life. Roy blurts out a proposal, which Memo tentatively accepts, warning that she is "the type who has to have somebody who can support her in a decent way." She knows Roy isn't making much as a baseball player, and with his age he won't have many more seasons left. She says he must do something big to make money quickly if he wants to marry her. She leans in close and whispers that the judge has offered him $15,000 up front and more next season to throw the final playoff game. Roy is outraged, which causes Memo to cry.

A short time later, the judge himself visits to convince Roy to take the offer. Roy is angry and rude to the judge, who coolly persists. He asserts that even if the Knights miraculously win the upcoming game, they are not strong enough—Roy in particular—to win the World Series: "We'd be ground to pulp, made the laughingstock of organized baseball, and your foolish friend, Pop Fisher, would this time destroy himself in humiliation." Roy refuses, so the judge ups his fee to $25,000. He warns Roy that if he doesn't act he may lose Memo to a "better provider." Although Roy doesn't let it show, this threat worries him. He talks the judge into $35,000 for throwing the game and a $45,000 contract for next season. When Memo hears the news, she is overjoyed. When she leaves, Roy finally reads Iris's letter, which details her difficult life after her baby was born. Although poor, abandoned, and alone, Iris's life was filled with joy because she was with her precious daughter. Those years were tough but rewarding and now that her daughter is grown Iris feels free to pursue her own happiness. Roy crumples up the note and hurls it against the wall.


This part highlights Roy's crisis as he must choose between good, represented by Iris, and evil, represented by Memo. He has fallen so far from the naïvely moral rookie who wouldn't even experiment with weighted dice in Pre-Game to considering fixing the final game before the World Series simply to make money. Memo's involvement in the plot is clear as she admits the judge sent her to Roy's room. If she really cared about Roy she would have visited before, but predictably, Roy ignores this. Memo agrees to marry Roy under the pretense that he becomes rich enough to keep her happy. This is obviously a windup to force Roy to take the judge's offer, but again, Roy is blind to it. Just as Memo used sex to lure Roy to the poisonous party in the previous chapter, she uses marriage to lure Roy into the fix. Roy remains tragically blind to her true motivations. The letter from Iris, which Roy finally reads in his hospital bed, details how a domestic life gives her happiness and freedom. Roy had felt this freedom momentarily during his date with Iris, "as if he had been sprung from the coop," but he throws the note away in the same way he threw Iris away. He has chosen evil over good.

Before making his decision, Roy has two deeply symbolic dreams. In his dream about eating a "prime hunk of beef," Roy realizes he is eating himself. The dream sends the same message Roy continues to ignore: chasing base pleasures will lead to his destruction. In another dream Sam, his father figure, visits to say, "Take my advice, kiddo ... Don't do it." Roy doesn't know what "it" is yet, but when faced with the decision to fix the final game, Roy accepts, refusing Sam's final bit of fatherly advice. In doing so Roy severs yet another intimate tie in pursuit of selfish goals.

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