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The Natural Circles and Sin: America Strikes Out
I. Roy Hobbs as tragic, not heroic • True, mythical heroes cannot exist in the corrupt, modern world. • Like tragic heroes, Roy has tragic flaws • Arrogance • Greed • Lust Combine to cause his downfall.
II. The Natural and King Arthur • Blatant and intentional similarities to Arthurian myth • Fisher King = Pop Fisher • Knights of Round Table = Knights • Excalibur = Wonderboy • Grail = Championship • Key Difference: There is no Galahad • Roy is imperfect, impure • No “knight” is worthy of the grail • Shattering of Wonderboy is shattering of myth that heroes can exist.
III. Circle Imagery • Roy’s assertion: “He had never really liked the sight of a circle. They got you nowwhere but back to the place you were to begin with” (Malamud 163). • Many characters’ lives are cyclical – they end where they began • Roy • Iris • Pop • Baseball diamond as a symbol: baseball is a game where the goal is to return to “home,” where you started. In short – you literally get nowhere by succeeding. • Progression of heroes also cyclical – always a new hero to replace the old: Whammer Roy Youngberry
IV. American Dream • Typical of Modernist literature, The Natural emphasizes the struggle of individualism • Society is full of corruption, keeps men from achieving their individual dreams. • Important to understanding ending: only characters who “advance” are those who are totally corrupt; the bad guys win.
The Movie “The storybook ending is so preposterous you don't know whether to cheer or jeer.” Released in 1984, nominated for 4 Academy Awards: Here's the last 7 minutes of the movie
V. The Ending • In order for Malamud to prove his point about heroes, Roy must strike out. • His strikeout symbolizes the fruitlessness of hope in a corrupt, modern world. • Movie, by having Roy succeed, completely ruins Malamud’s point in just five minutes; it affirms that heroes can exist.
VI. Final Critical Points • Malamud presents women as corrupting, lust as literally deadly. • Malamud uses names to signify importance • Youngberry (New, young version of Roy) • Iris Lemon (Fruitful, life-giving) • Bump Bailey (a “bump” on Roy’s road to glory) • Memo (memo, short for memorandum, latin for “to call to mind” or “remember” – she is nothing more than a new version of Harriet Bird) • The past warps the present – it is nearly impossible to escape one’s past.