The Natural | Study Guide

Bernard Malamud

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The Natural | Quotes


I don't crave any outside assistance in games of chance.

Roy Hobbs, Pre-Game

At the opening of the novel, Roy is pure-hearted and moral. This is sharply contrasted with his character at the end of the novel, when he is bribed to throw an important game, totally corrupted by his love for Memo.


Although he was sitting here on this step he was still in motion.

Narrator, Batter Up!, Part 1

When Roy arrives at the Knights stadium, the narrator points out that his life is still in movement. Trains can symbolize life's progress—the machine chugs forward and the person is an inactive passenger. Roy's outcome on the team is up to fate, yet he spends the entire novel trying to control his future.


Remember that lightning cuts down the tallest trees too.

Pop Fisher, Batter Up!, Part 1

Pop warns Bump to play seriously and put his ego aside. Bump fails to heed Pop's warning and dies in the next part. The warning could also be aimed at Roy whose ego makes him a "tall tree." When he puts his own needs before the needs of the team, he fails dramatically.


Everything gradually got so black he lost all sight of where he was.

Narrator, Batter Up!, Part 2

While hypnotized, Roy has a vision of a mermaid who looks eerily similar to Memo. As time passes, Memo will pull Roy into the underworld of immorality and dishonesty that causes him to lose sight of his focus and of his identity.


Wonderboy flashed in the sun ... noise like a twenty-one gun salute cracked the sky.

Narrator, Batter Up!, Part 2

The description of Roy's first at bat for the Knights likens his hit to the loud, ceremonial firing of guns or cannons. Roy knocks the cover off the ball, just as Pop instructed him to do, breaking the drought that had left the field cracked and dry, and giving hope to Pop that he may have found the player to win him his pennant.


I mistrust a bad ball hitter ... They sometimes make some harmful mistakes.

Pop Fisher, Batter Up!, Part 2

Pop worries that Roy's habit of chasing after "bad balls" will lead to a mistake. He's referring solely to the game, but his statement also extends to Roy's romantic choices. By chasing after the "bad ball" Memo, Roy puts himself in a position to bring down the entire team by making the "harmful mistake" of fixing the final pennant game.


What I am saying is that emphasis upon money will pervert your values.

Judge Banner, Batter Up!, Part 3

The judge gives Roy this sage advice during their negotiation of Roy's requested raise. It is an example of dramatic irony that the judge would hand out such truthful advice when later in the novel he forces Roy to twist his morality simply to make more money: he tells Roy exactly how he is going to ruin before ruining him.


I will do my best ... to be the greatest there ever was in the game.

Roy Hobbs, Batter Up!, Part 4

Roy makes this impassioned speech during Roy Hobbs Day at Knights stadium. The statement parallels the one he made to Harriet Bird right before she shot him. He has learned nothing from his previous life and cares nothing about being a team player. He plays baseball for his ego alone, which is his fatal flaw.


Suffering is what brings us toward happiness.

Iris Lemon, Batter Up!, Part 6

When Roy hears this from Iris, he thinks his suffering is in his past. But readers perceive that Roy has learned nothing from his experience with Harriet and is still driven solely by his ego. Refusing to learn from past experiences dooms Roy to continue living in suffering.


Something about her, like all the food [he] had lately been eating ... left him ... unsatisfied.

Narrator, Batter Up!, Part 7

After dumping Iris, Roy feels deeply unsatisfied with his life and nothing can fill his soul. Physically he tries to stave the gnawing hunger with food, but he fails, just as he fails to bed Memo in an attempt to heal his loneliness. To feel satisfied in life, Roy needs to begin making moral decisions rather than chasing after superficial pleasures.


A whole lot of people are like him ... their lives will go the same way all the time.

Pop Fisher, Batter Up!, Part 9

Pop is talking about his inability to win a pennant after trying for 25 years, but his message also relates to Roy's struggle for wealth, fame, and happiness. Roy refuses to make any changes in his life, yet he expects a different outcome to his life than the sadness he has previously experienced. Pop identifies that if one wants to change the outcome, they must first change their behavior.


Only a homer, with himself scoring the winning run, would truly redeem him.

Narrator, Batter Up!, Part 9

Proving that he has learned nothing from his life's experiences, Roy steps up to the plate for his final at bat determined to win the pennant—yet he isn't trying to win for Pop or Iris or the fans, he wants to win it for himself, which means he is doomed to fail.

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