This is the final post on The Natural. Whether you read the book or watched the movie, the critical question to ask is: Who is the Natural? You would think that the obvious answer is Roy Hobbs with his natural talent at baseball.
I don’t think that the author intended the “natural” to be Roy Hobbs. In the book, Roy was a failure, not unlike many other failures that have lived. He went very far, having accepted the call to adventure, but soon lost during the adventure to temptations and self-centeredness. He did not have the virtues of temperance and justice to see himself through the adventure and to the ultimate love of Iris, pulling him out of the adventure back to the everyday world towards happiness and the flourishing of his baseball community.
After Roy struck out and lost the game for his team, he recounted to himself, ” … I never did learn anything out of my past life, now I have to suffer again…. He stared into faces of people he passed along the street but nobody recognized him.” The only solace that Roy can take is that he did accept the call to adventure and will be given another opportunity at some time in the future to begin a new adventure. Had he recognized the call and not accepted it, he would not even have been given another opportunity.
Iris is the “natural.” She represents the virtue of love of neighbor. She is the one that has the remarkable ability to reach out and help those along their own adventure to return back across the threshold. Iris was asked by Roy why she first came to see him when he was playing poorly (as a result of his desire for Memo Paris). Iris answered, “Because I hate to see a hero fail. There are so few of them…. Without heroes we’re all plain people and don’t know how far we can go…. There are so many young boys you influence…. You’ve got to give them your best…. I felt that if you knew people believed in you, you’d regain your power. That is why I stood up in the grandstand. I hadn’t meant to before I came. It happened naturally.”
And that is the reason that Iris is the “natural.” Because she exhibits all the virtues. She had her own adventure earlier in her life. That adventure required that she possess all the virtues for her to succeed. And she did succeed. And now, she is willing and able to welcome those at the threshold of the return back to the everyday world. She is the invisible hand stretched out in the Homer painting, The Veteran in the New Field, welcoming the veteran to a new world. She is nature, uncontaminated by vices, having attained happiness, with her boon being to help others cash in their own personal IOUs.
I can’t stress enough reading the book and watching the movie. I think that it is best to watch the movie first – it will make understanding the book easier.