Study Guide

Memo Paris in The Natural

By Bernard Malamud

Memo Paris

Memo's a gold-digging seductress with an exotic name, exotic red hair, and a killer body. She's the reincarnation of Harriet Bird in Roy's life, just as deadly. Roy's lust for Memo is what leads to his downfall. He's so infatuated that he risks everything—his career and his self-respect—to get money to get her attention. Memo seems fragile (like a bird, Roy thinks), a poor girl desperate to leave her old life behind. Our naïve, bewitched hero is no match for this calculating, greedy lady.

Poor Memo

We learn that Memo came from a poor background. She tried her hand at acting without much success and seems to have decided that her looks are what she has going for her. After sobbing for a while by his hospital bed she tells Roy,

"Maybe I am weak or spoiled, but I am the type who has to have somebody who can support her in a decent way. I'm tired of living like a slave. I got to have a house of my own, a maid to help me with the hard work, a decent car to shop with and a fur coat for winter time when it's cold. […] I suppose it's wrong to want all that but I can't help it I've been around too long and seen too much." (9.50)

This speech is just a lead in for the real story. She gets down to business:

"I'm sorry to say this, Roy, but I have to be practical. Suppose the next one is your last season, or that you'll have one more after that? Sure, you'll probably get a good contract till then but it costs money to live, and then what'll we do for the rest of our lives?" (9.55)

It finally dawns on Roy what Memo's up to and he asks her who sent her. She admits it was the Judge that sent her to ask him to consider throwing the game for a ton of cash. Looks like the sobbing about her sad past was all a setup.

Manly Men

Memo's a woman who's defined by the men around her. In order to get what she wants, she puts herself in the company of men who are rich like Gus or important like Bump. The first thing we know about her is that she's Pop Fisher's niece. This gives her some important "in" with the team that he coaches, and she uses it to get cozy with the players.

Roy finally gets his own chance with Memo, adding himself to the army of men that surround her, but he has competition with Gus, the bookie. This rubs Roy the wrong way:

Memo walked away but Roy went after her and apologized, though her concern for the bookie—even on the night they were going to sleep together—unsettled and irritated him. (8.113)

All these guys are like moons orbiting around her, fighting to see who can get the closest. The fact that Memo turns out to be in the Judge's pocket at the end of the novel shows us that she's all about using people to climb to the top—all the way to the top of the organization, with the team's majority owner.

She shows her true colors when Roy comes in and beats up the Judge after throwing the game. Memo tells him,

"Don't touch him, you big bastard. He's worth a million of your kind." (11.7)

Memo's all about the money and she really doesn't seem to care who she hurts in order to get it. She sees men as the way to get rich, and gravitates towards whoever's most likely to give her that.

Femme Fatale

This femme is truly fatale for Roy. As soon as he gets involved seriously with her, he goes into a batting slump. He later tells Iris that he'd been jinxed, but he doesn't make the connection with Memo. We know that Memo loves to play the guys against each other in order to climb the ladder of power and money. But how does she do it, and why?

First off, how? She seems to be really good at attracting guys. She's sexy and beautiful, which doesn't hurt, but it's not just that. Memo has a sort of mysterious power over men. Pop tries to warn Roy:

Leading him to the corner, he whispered to Roy not to have too much to do with Memo.

Roy stiffened.

"Don't get me wrong, son, she's not a bad girl—"

Roy glared.

[…]"Don't mistake me, son. She was my sister's girl and I do love her, but she is always dissatisfied and will snarl you up in her trouble in a way that will weaken your strength if you don't watch out." (5.116-27)

Pop points to Memo's dissatisfaction as the source of her troubles, which isn't too surprising. Memo's dangerous because she uses other people to try to get what she wants, sucking the strength out of them as she wants more and more. Memo makes no secret about her ambitions:

"I saw how my mother lived and I know it killed her. I made up my mind to have certain things." (9.49) 

So Memo goes to college, gets a good job, and saves her money so she can get those things.

Oh, wait. We meant to say that she manipulates other people into getting her those things, and when they can't or won't, she turns against them. With Roy, she uses the promise of sex and maybe a relationship if he would only agree to a teeny little bit of game-fixing so he could give her the cars and furs she needs to survive in this terrible world.

Memo's good at avoiding him and promising sex "later" as a way of drawing him in. She's much more at home in the company of people like Gus and the Judge, who share her views about what's really important in life—the cash. What Memo represents in the book is temptation: the temptation of sex, money and power that eventually destroys Roy.

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