By Edward A. Abramson
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The question arises as to the price Malamud exacts for Frank's redemption. Philip Roth thinks that the price is too high and the method by which this redemption is achieved unjust: "But oh how punitive is this redemption! We might almost take what happens to the bad goy when he falls into the hands of the good Jews as an act of enraged Old Testament retribution visited upon him by the wrathful Jewish author—if it weren't for the moral pathos and gentle religious coloration. . ,"13 Like Yasha Mazur at the close of Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel The Magician of Lublin, Frank has chosen entombment as being necessary for his redemption; he is as much a prisoner in the store, slaving his life away for Ida and Helen, as Yasha is in his cell.
To draw parallels between Roy, a virtual buffoon, and Sir Percival or Achilles is absurd if done seriously. If done ironically, the effect is to diminish the 22 BERNARD MALAMUD REVISITED image of Roy as hero to the level of mockery" (Ducharme, 35-36). Because these extreme qualities pervade the novel, Wasserman is correct in describing it as a mixture of "Ring Lardner and Jung" (Wasserman, 440). Despite the numerous allusions to Western and universal myths, The Natural is very much in the American grain, on account of its reliance on the national sport and its actual events and players (Eddie Waitkus, Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson), metaphorical though this reliance often is.
Roy remains a buffoon and does not become a great American hero because bases can be stepping stones to fame but not to grandeur, truth, or freedom. The language of the novel is suitable for its shifts in tone and plot. Sidney Richman observes that Malamud often uses a "dazzling journalese" and that "throughout the book passages of idiomatic, terse, and slangy prose alternate with passages of lyrical intensity, and often as not the two styles are perfectly integrated, even within the given sentence.