Bernard Malamud emerged as a crucial and contemporary innovator of sports literature. Sports literature as defined by Kevin Baker’s introduction, are stories “drawing upon the natural drama of any sporting contest, and imparting life lessons freely along the way” (viii). Malamud’s debut novel The Natural, is a grim and “antiheroic tale” of a baseball player Roy Hobbs “whose ambitions and desires are constantly thwarted” (vii). Through his novel The Natural, Malamud emerges as a prestigious figure of sports literature through his combination of mythology and baseball, in order to create memorable works in this literary tradition. Malamud in his novel The Natural “draws heavily upon this genre, then stands it on its head” (viii). Baker draws the connection between the “natural” Roy Hobbs and Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, arguing both are hubristic characters whom “struck flames” and “soon have his hands full” (vii). This connection boldly leads to Baker’s argument that “Hobbs is one of the most thoroughly unsympathetic heroes in the history of American Literature" (xii). This paper will analyze and refute Kevin Baker’s statement.
In his novel The Natural, Malamud presents a paradox of a character in Roy Hobbs. Hobbs is an immensely talented athlete and a “pitching prodigy” who, despite his good intentions fails to live up to the world’s expectations of him (xii). For all of his physical tools, Hobbs cannot overcome his personal flaws. Baker claims that this paradox is enough proof to brand Hobbs with this fatal notorious flaw, but then the question is, does this truly make him an unsympathetic hero or a lesson to readers? The novel from a logical perspective reads as a lesson; associating back with Malamud’s mythological inspiration, it i...
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...ing in his portal of Roy Hobbs who is “blind” and “blunt” with “ambition is not purely missionary” (xii). Yet, Hobbs’ nature is not as one-sided as Baker portrays him to be. Hobbs is an evolving character with a paradox nature, he has his flaws, which initially bound to an unsympathetic continuous cycle of mistakes but by the end of the novel this changes. Hobbs “through his natural ability had to be molded and disciplined” had become a momentary baseball star but contrary to typical heroes found in sports novels he had “betrayed himself and the team” (viii). Roy Hobbs is not without his fair share of faults yet this does not make him the “most unsympathetic hero.” He is, after all “thoroughly human” and does not have life fully figured out; he learns from his mistakes. Roy Hobbs is a sympathetic hero who was bound to stumble and fall alongside the rest of humanity.
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