When you pick up Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, inevitably the Robert Redford movie creeps into your conscious mind. But this book is a far darker vision than the movie, and the end, with its even duskier conclusion about human fallibility, makes reading The Natural both sad and enlivening.
The Roy Hobbes of the book is intent on getting his second chance as a major league ball player. The strain of misogyny in the novel is strong, and women are the element that continually fouls Hobbes’ chance at success. This is an ugly part of the book, but in keeping with the overall gray moral sentiments expressed throughout. Hobbes is not the eunuch of the movie, and he is interested sex, money and fame as much as success in baseball (and he often views baseball as merely a means to that end).
The Natural provides a hard look at second chances, and the inability of people to capitalize on them. Our first lives intrude on our second. We repeat the same mistakes.