What is the social issue in The Natural?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The social issue that comes out of The Natural is how society must make a choice between what is temporary and what is transcendent.

Through Roy Hobbs, Malamud is suggesting that human beings are positioned between fleeting desires and real aspirations. Roy is a creature of such temporary notions.  He wants "to be the best in the game." He embraces gluttonous behavior through eating or coveting fame.  When he seeks to win over Memo, who herself represents that which is not lasting, Roy embraces materialism over all.  

Roy is a symbol for society.  In these situations, Malamud is suggesting that society must make conscious choices to embrace more than what is in front of our eyes.  When Harriet questions Roy's desire "to be the best in the game" with, "Is that all? Isn't there something over and above earthly things—some more glorious meaning to one's life and activities," or when Iris teaches Roy that suffering "brings us toward happiness" because "it teaches us to want the right things," Malamud is making a clear social statement.  He recognizes that society embraces "earthly things" and fails to "want the right things." Malamud sees modern society as people like Roy, struggling between the fleetingly seductive embrace of the moment and the transcendent notion of the good.  Malamud believes that society must make a conscious choice of one over the other.  In this regard, he wishes for us to be better than Roy.

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