Study Guide

The Natural Dissatisfaction

By Bernard Malamud

Dissatisfaction

Ah, the American Dream. Rising up from humble beginnings to fame, fortune, and happiness. That's what they tell us anyway. But Bernard Malamud tells a different story in The Natural. This baseball tale focuses on how dreams die. Whether it's due to slumps, losing streaks, jinxes, or bad luck, no one in the novel is happy with what they've got. That dissatisfaction works as a motivator for most of them, driving them to be better. The problem is that even when they do get a little success it doesn't satisfy, and they need more, and more, and moreā€¦

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. How would Roy's life have been different if Harriet Bird had never shot him? Would he have found satisfaction?
  2. If a guy like Pop Fisher is so unhappy with his life, what do you think motivates him to stay in baseball?
  3. Does the novel seem to think of dissatisfaction as something that motivates people to be better? Drives them to destruction? A little of both?
  4. Who's the unhappiest character in the novel?

Chew on This

In The Natural, dissatisfaction is the oil of the American Dream machine, driving people to improve themselves and get better, richer, more famous, faster, etc., etc.

The Natural shows the way that an inability to be satisfied with what you have can ruin your life.