The meaning of The Natural can be readily understood but readily denied, which is what makes the novel interesting. Malamud makes the case that life involves suffering and, hopefully, learning from that suffering. When one does not learn, the cycle starts again. In Roy Hobbs’s case, his youthful, nearly fatal attraction to the young Harriet Bird could be understood and forgiven. His infantile attachment to Memo Paris cannot, however, especially given the alternative of Iris Lemon. Iris explains to Roy the suffering and learning in her own life, which has included single motherhood and the fact that she is a grandmother at the age of thirty-three. Roy cannot cope with a mature woman or relationship. To his ultimate regret, he single-mindedly pursues the glamorous, gold-digging Memo.
Iris Lemon is Malamud’s idea of a realistic, good person. Through her, the most eloquent ideas of heroism in the modern world are voiced. She pleads with Roy to be a hero because the world has so few of them and because children especially need them so desperately. Her name is also symbolic of the real world: It consists of both a flower and a sour fruit, just as life is a mixture of the beautiful and the bitter.
The novel is particularly interesting for its brilliant incorporation of both Arthurian legend and factual information related to American baseball history.
Roy’s first name is derived from the French word roi , meaning “king.” He comes to save a baseball team called the Knights with the bat Wonderboy, a weapon reminiscent of...
(The entire section is 532 words.)