He Once Was a King

"He coulda been a king" (Malamud 217). In the novel The Natural by Bernard Malamud, Roy Hobbs exhibits a dichotomy of personality because he is brilliantly talented and yet tragically flawed. Roy's immaturity with women, greed for fame and fortune, and lack of work ethic eventually lead to his ultimate destruction. Thus, Roy Hobbs' actions contribute to the deterioration of his own fate.
Roy's lack of maturity with women leads to greater loneliness. The one and only woman that appreciates Roy is Iris Lemon, and he turns her away because she possesses a quality unfamiliar to Roy, namely maturity. Her beauty and affection attract Roy, but when he learns that she is a grandmother, Roy's attraction no longer exists. He is afraid that associating with Iris means he too must grow up. "'You filthy scum, I hate your guts and always have since the day you murdered Bump,'" says Memo (another woman in the novel) to Roy. Throughout the story, Roy is oblivious to the true nature of his relationship with Memo, until she must finally spell it out at the end of the novel. As a result, Memo's understanding of the relationship allows her to toy with his heart. "A twisted dagger of smoke drifted up from the gun barrel." Roy's inexperience leads him to a private and tragic encounter with Harriet Bird (a third woman in the novel). His naivete with women results in a vulnerable position.
Roy Hobb's greed for fame and fortune also contributes to his downfall. When Harriet Bird asks Roy, "'what will you hope to accomplish,'" Roy replies he will be the best player there ever was. This surprises Harriet, and she asks, "'is that all?'" In this example, Roy reveals that his priorities revolve around his fame and popularity. Nonetheless, Roy limits his life to just baseball and ignores other aspects of living, aspects which shape one's personality. Towards the end of the novel, the Judge bribes Roy to throw the game for money and says Roy may lose Memo to "'a better provider.'" Roy accepts the offer, knowing that money is the only way he can keep Memo. Roy's greed puts money above all, including those he loves most, Pop and the team. "Gus's blue, depressed eye hunted around for a way out but his glass one gleamed like a lamp in a graveyard." In this instance, a gambler named Gus embarrasses Roy in the presence of Memo through a series of bets. In order to regain his popularity, Roy purposely makes Gus look like the fool through a progression of magic tricks; and Roy then regains the attention of the crowd. Throughout the novel, Roy's priorities are misplaced and, consequently, lead to his ultimate destruction.
Roy Hobbs' natural ability leads him to believe he can achieve greatness with little effort. Malamud's title The Natural strongly suggests this naivete. The title suggests that Roy is a natural in the game and was born with his greatness. This greatness that he possesses is not developed through work but is simply part of his genetic code. In addition, when Roy's hitting is in a slump, he asks Pop, "'what do I have to do to get out of this?'" Roy relies on others to help him relieve him of his problem instead of disciplining himself to resolve his slump through hard work, or practice. He believes that this slump is nothing but a casual phase for a hitter and that he will just wait for it to pass. Pop tells Roy, "'I would give my whole life to win this game and take the pennant.'" Unlike Pop, Roy has not faced failure in baseball and, therefore, does not understand the hardship required in winning a pennant. Roy's lack of work ethic makes the desire for the title no more valued than common cash. Due to Roy's inability to grow beyond his natural gifts, he is always destined to strike out in life.
Roy Hobbs' immaturity with women, greed for fame and fortune, and lack of work ethic jeopardize not only his career but also his life. Consequently, Roy's life is only a glimpse of what could have been, thus making him just another face in the crowd. His