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In this passage of Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, Roy Hobbs is in a batting slump. Though at the end of the passage, he rises from his slump to once again hit a home run. This event occurs during his game in Chicago, right after the beginning of his batting slump which in turn occurs right after his first and only date with Memo. This game is the first encounter between Roy and Iris Lemon, the true vegetative goddess who is a suitable partner for Roy.
This passage is located in the “Falling Action” of Freytag’s pyramid that starts off with a dark and gloomy mood as a result of the diction that is used, “cursed”, “booed”, “harrowed”, “sick” and “miserable”. The employments of these words introduce the passage as dark period of time which directly reflects to both the mental and physical state that Roy is in at the time. As mentioned above, at the end of this passage, Roy rises from his batting slump, which makes this a turning point for Roy that propels the book towards its climax.
This passage could be considered a turning point for Roy not only because he rises from his slump, but also because he finally meets his rightful vegetative goddess who gives him strength to hit the homerun at the end of the passage. Although this passage is not only the turning point for Roy, but also a comparison between Memo Paris and Iris Lemon. His fate is determined by his final decision between the two women and this passage acts as a sign for both the reader and Roy that Iris Lemon is his true vegetative goddess who he must marry in order to achieve his full potential as a vegetative god who can rejuvenate the “Fisher King”, symbolizing Pop Fisher.
In the first line of this passage, Wonderboy is compared to a “sagging baloney”. This comparison is ambiguous because one can interpret it as if Wonderboy physically looks like a “sagging baloney” or that Wonderboy like King Arthur’s “Excalibur” which was powerful and firm, is now weak and soft. However, the comparison between Roy’s baseball bat and a “sagging baloney” has a greater meaning. When Wonderboy is compared to a “sagging baloney”, one can say that this is a reference to Wonderboy’s phallic representation. The comparison between Roy’s “Excalibur” as well as manhood, a symbol of his masculine strength and “sagging baloney” degrades Roy’s strength and power as a vegetative god. This further shows his loss of power during his slump, as he “felt sick”.
The reason for his slump is directly related to Memo Paris. Following his first and only date with Memo, he is overjoyed, even though it was disastrous. She claims to be “strictly a dead a man’s woman”. This “man” refers to the dead Bump Bailey, who symbolizes those without life. This indicates that she is not the destined and right woman for Roy, as he is the vegetative god, the god of life. His existence is contradictory to her ideal man, which means that they are not destined to be together.
She further states that her breasts are “sick” and “Don’t touch it” When he tries to touch them, a woman’s breast symbolizes her fertility and thus Memo’s womanhood is “sick”. Therefore, it would be contradictory for Roy to be with Memo because he is the vegetative god and his vegetative goddess must be a woman with a strong life force and fertility. After the date, Memo rejects Roy and claims that she is going to see Gus Sands. Following this, Roy becomes troubled and falls into a batting slump as a result of Memo’s negligence towards Roy.
After the second strike that Roy hits, a “lady in the stands hesitantly rose for the second time”. This lady later on turns out to be Iris Lemon, Roy’s destined wife and vegetative goddess. When she rises again, Roy “stole a quick look” and gains hope, because “he became aware that the night had spread out in all directions and was filled with an unbelievable fragrance”. In the presence of Iris Lemon, Wonderboy regains its hardness and power and shoots the ball “through the light and up into the dark, like a white star seeking an old constellation”. When Iris, the vegetative goddess who like Roy is a force of life and rejuvenation stands up, a stranger next to her feels a “strong sexual urge”. This shows that Iris is a true vegetative goddess whose very presence causes a stranger to feel a “strong sexual urge”.
Her very presence also rejuvenates Wonderboy, Roy’s metaphorical phallus. Iris, who has such a strong life force, “brought a child into the world” at an early age, becomes a “grandmother” at the age of thirty three and she also reveals at the end of the book that “I am pregnant” from their one and only encounter on the beach. This transfer of life and strength to Roy and Wonderboy from Iris allows Roy to hit the baseball so hard, that it metaphorically flies into space, towards a distant star. This description of the baseball that is hit into space is so implausible that it seems godly and brings a magic realism and supernatural touch into Roy’s abilities. Roy who smashes the baseball so hard was only able to do so due to Iris’s help, because at the presence of his vegetative goddess, he can truly achieve his full potential as a vegetative god who is destined to revive the Knights and Pop Fisher like Sir Perceval who is destined to revive King Fisher and the wasteland.
As mentioned earlier, Memo is a destructive force that sucks the life and energy out of Roy and as a result, he falls into a batting slump. Her surname, Paris, is a mythological allusion to the Greek mythology of the city Troy. Paris was a young prince of Troy who abducted the queen of Sparta, Helen who was considered to be the most beautiful woman on earth. Because of this, Menelaus, the king of Mycenaean Sparta along with his brother and the Greek army invaded Troy and tore it down into ruins.
In the process, most of Paris’s family was killed, all due to the fact that he fell in love with Helen. This mythological reference is a warning to both the reader and Roy that his childish lust for Memo will eventually lead to his ultimate downfall. This warning is also given out by Pop Fisher after Roy’s date with Memo, “she is unlucky and always has been and I think that there is some kind of whammy in her that carries her luck to other people. That’s why I would like you to watch out and not get too tied up with her.” In Greek mythology, the sirens are bird-women who sing songs to enchant sailors to their death through shipwreck. Memo is similar to the sirens in a way that she is the temptress who like the sirens lead Roy to his death, that is, the death of his baseball career.
Memo is the temptress who leads Roy to his downfall, but Iris on the other hand can be seen as her direct opposite, the woman can lead Roy to fulfill his destiny, that is to heal Pop Fisher and the Knights. This healing to the Knights is accomplished when “The long rain had turned the grass green” and as the grass on the field grew, the team starts win games. When Iris “hesitantly rose for the second time”, she is seen wearing a red dress with dark hair. After Bump died Memo is seen wearing “black” mourning dress and “black pyjamas” with red hair. Iris’s hair having the colour as Memo’s dress and Memo’s hair having the same colour of Iris’s dress is a reference to the fact that Memo and Iris are complete opposites, while one sucks the energy and life out of Roy, the other rejuvenates and provides a life-giving force that gave him energy.
Although towards the end of the book, Roy makes the wrong choice of choosing Memo instead of Iris due to his childish lust and sexual impulse. He continues to seek to break records instead of focusing on his true goals to rejuvenate Pop Fisher and the Knights. Despite Iris’s gentleness, powers that helped him though his slump and dissimilarity from Memo as she is not the “type of dame I always fell for–they weren’t like you.” He ignores the hints that Iris is the one that he is destined to be with, because he is afraid of the responsibilities of being with Iris, as she is a grandmother, which in turn would make him a grandfather. Warned multiple times, by Pop’s warning, she “weakens a man”, her surname name “Paris”, her “sick breast” and her complete opposite nature to Iris, Roy does not realize that Memo is the temptress and his true goals as a vegetative god along with his potential destiny with Iris until it was too late.