Tag Archives: The Natural

The Natural – The Book (Part 4)

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.

The Natural – The Book (Part 3)

Continuing from my last post… Iris tries to help Roy by explaining that she believes that “We have two lives, Roy, the life we learn with and the life we live after that.  Suffering is what brings us toward happiness.”

This is one of the central themes of the book: that life is broken into two segments.  The book’s “life that we learn with,” I consider to be the first three galleries of my book.  These three galleries represent the preparation for the journey and the journey itself towards education, preparation, skills, social awareness, and self-esteem.  This is the period of Roy’s life leading up to his return to baseball.

The book’s “life we live after that,” I consider to be the second three galleries of my book.  These galleries represent the call to adventure, the adventure itself, and the return from the adventure.  This is the period from when Roy joins the team to his ultimate demise (unlike the movie).

While Roy had the virtues of wisdom and courage to recognize his future and act on it (the call to adventure of Gallery Four), he never earned the virtues of temperance and justice to win the trials of his adventure.  Temptations of sex, fame, food, and unearned wealth got the best of him.  And what is really sad is that Iris, representing the final virtue of love of neighbor, was there ready to pull Roy across the threshold back to the everyday world.  Had Roy been able to resist the temptations, he would have found happiness with Iris and brought the boon of a pennant to his team and his fans (which is what happened in the movie).  Unfortunately, Roy struck out at his last at bat, the team lost the pennant, Roy lost Iris.   Roy and was forced to return to Gallery Three to live out the remaining years of a life of inconsequential existence.

Final thoughts in my next post.

The Natural – The Book (Part 2)

Continuing with my last post… As Roy becomes involved with a dark woman, Memo Paris, who is contributing to his demise, another woman enters his life, Iris.  Iris wants nothing more than for Roy to succeed as a player and in life.  With her influence, for a short period Roy recovers his playing abilities and the team marches forward in the standings.  It is at this moment that the book and the movie diverge.

In the book, Roy remains distant from Iris and is tempted by the dark woman, Memo Paris, and also food, fame, and money.  Roy becomes obsessed with these temptations and cannot see the natural beauty of Iris.  In addition, Roy has little interest in the welfare of the team, his fans, or the sport.  All he wants is to be the best that ever played the game so that everyone will remember his name.  He believes that if he succeeds this season that he will make a lot of money, impressing Memo Paris.

More to come in the next post.

The Natural – The Book (Part 1)

I just finished reading the book, The Natural, upon which was based the movie, The Natural.  Both the movie and the book are important in their own right.  The comparison between the two is startling, providing a contrast of the two avenues that are open to us as we go through life.

The setting and plot of the book are very similar to the movie.  The list of characters is also very similar.  In fact, all of the main characters play similar roles in both the book and the movie except the main character, Roy Hobbs.

The book begins much like the movie with Roy being educated by his father in the game of baseball.  He is presented to a talent scout who is genuinely impressed with Roy’s abilities and travels with him to Chicago for a tryout with the Cubs.  Prior to his arrival, and to further enhance his self-esteem, Roy is offered the opportunity to strike out a Babe Ruthian player.  He does strike him out.  A femme fatale impressed with Roy, lures him to her room and shoots him with a silver bullet and then commits suicide.  Roy survives the shooting but spends the next several years lost, going from job to job, looking for his future.

Roy finally decides that he must reenter baseball and is hired by a struggling major league team.  He is a natural at the game, hitting just about every pitch out of the ballpark.  Roy, with his natural abilities and training, has the wisdom the see his future and the courage to act on this by joining the team.

The following artwork depicts this decision by Roy to accept the call and begin a new future, with a unknown future.

The Morning Bell by Homer

The Morning Bell by Winslow Homer (1871)

More to come in the next post.

The Natural – The Movie (Part 1)

The Natural, a movie about baseball starring Robert Redford, is a great movie and one that I strongly urge you to watch, if you haven’t already seen it.  It is powerful and very moving.  It also tells us a lot about the importance of the virtues.

For those of you who have not seen the movie, stop reading this post, watch the movie, and then come back.

The movie begins with Roy Hobbs, a natural at the sport of baseball, being trained by his father to be a future great player.  Roy’s father dies, and soon after Roy decides that it is time to leave home.  He says goodbye to his high school sweetheart and is escorted by his manager to his new team.  Along the way, Roy becomes involves with a femme fatale who shoots him in the stomach, wounding him and forcing him to quit the game for many years.

Finally, Roy returns to the game in midlife to join a losing team.  No one has ever heard of him, everyone questions his background, but his natural abilities are still present and he can still out hit any other player in the game.

As expressed in my book, Roy was fortunate enough to have a caring family to help develop his natural abilities.  He was well socialized and involved with others.  Also, he exhibited high self-esteem, even striking out a Babe Ruth equivalent soon after leaving home and before meeting with the femme fatale.

Roy was well-prepared for the journey, and was both involved with others and exposed to many risks helping to complete his journey.  However, his adventure did not begin until he arrived in his middle years to play baseball for the NY Knights.

Roy received all the training and preparation for the adventure, assuming a willingness to accept the adventure.  In the next post, I will discuss the adventure and the importance of the  virtues in completing the adventure.