Natural Bernard Malamud Essays

Malamud found the perfect metaphor for both reality and myth in the history and romance of the game, in the resolve of the man on the mound, in the hope of the boy striving to meet a perfect pitch with the reverberating crack of bat against ball.He wove together actual dark moments of baseball history with an overlay of the failed Arthurian quest for purity of focus and perfection of skill.Rather, it was a game of the people, a sport meant to be played as much as watched.

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Despite the seeming differences in their endings, however, I argue that the film is actually faithful to the moral dilemma Malamud posed.Like other writers and filmmakers, he may have seen in baseball a perfect paradigm for exploring the theme of winning, the corruption of American business values, the “rules of the game,” and the elusive American dream of limitless possibility.Malamud wove together actual dark moments of baseball history with an overlay of the failed Arthurian quest for purity of focus and perfection of skill.Malamud himself was an avid baseball fan and a devotee of the Brooklyn Dodgers.He told me that on one of their first dates, he took his wife Ann to a double-header.At the time of the novel’s publication, baseball was still the most popular spectator sport in the United States.It was an especially apt metaphor with which Malamud could develop his complicated morality play.The book explores the desire to win: to have the best averages, to outrun, outscore, and outfield competitors and teammates.Baseball provides a wonderfully fertile set of American images against which to set the perennial questions of the innately competitive and combative nature of American life and of individual ambition.His character, Roy Hobbs, seems doomed to defeat, but for Malamud defeat is always a prelude to self-knowledge.He undoubtedly saw in baseball a vivid interplay between American culture and the growth of an individual’s values.

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