InThe Natural, Bernard Malamud indicates his artistic concern with personality development in an allegorical story utilizing baseball to present the challenges the hero must undergo. Roy Hobbs, the new player on the last-place Knights, has the opportunity to help gain the pennant and discover his own identity. Roy, however, cannot bring himself to make the right choices.
Structured in two parallel stories, the novel presents Roy Hobbs’s attempts to succeed. In both stories, Roy undergoes allegorical trials of initiation that test his strength and moral fiber. In both he fails by placing immediate, personal satisfaction ahead of larger goals. In the first story, Roy, a nineteen-year-old, has been discovered by the alcoholic, spent-out Sam Simpson, who hopes the presentation of Roy to Sam’s manager will redeem Sam. Roy can pitch and hit, armed with Wonderboy, a bat crafted for him from a lightning-felled oak tree. His first test comes when traveling to training camp. When the train mysteriously stops, a challenge match between Roy and the current superhero of baseball, the Whammer, takes place. Roy strikes out the Whammer, making it seem Roy may indeed replace him. After Roy passes the test of strength, his values are tested by a mysterious woman to whom he is attracted. When she asks him what he wants to be, his selfish response, “the best in the game,” is unworthy.
In the second story, a decade after the major setback that his...
(The entire section is 418 words.)