Study Guide

Harriet Bird in The Natural

By Bernard Malamud

Harriet Bird

This bird isn't around for long, but she makes quite the impact on our poor hero's life. Harriet's the nutcase behind this headline:

"WEST COAST OLYMPIC ATHLETE SHOT
"FOLLOWS 24 HOURS AFTER SLAYING OF ALL-AMERICAN FOOTBALL ACE"
(1.84)

For some reason which we never find out, Harriet is a serial killer who targets very successful athletes. She's also pretty good-looking, capturing the attention of not only Roy but also the Whammer. In fact, since the Whammer's already got fame and a lucrative contract, he's the most likely target for Ms. Bird. But when Roy strikes him out, Harriet decides that he's the next big thing who needs to be killed.

Harriet's an important character because she combines a lot of the most important themes of the novel into one short episode: fate, destiny, jealousy, ambition.

  • If Sam hadn't made the bet with Max and the Whammer, then Harriet never would have ended up shooting Roy and ruining his career
  • If Roy weren't so ambitious, saying that he was going to be the greatest player in the game, then Harriet wouldn't have targeted him
  • If Roy and Sam weren't so jealous of Max and the Whammer, they wouldn't have made the bet…and on, and on, and on.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda… Harriet Bird shows that hindsight is 20/20, and there's really no going back in life. For more on Malamud and birds, check out our "Symbols" section.