Study Guide

The Natural Poverty

By Bernard Malamud

Poverty

The fear of being poor makes some people do things they're not proud of. Memo's the most direct about it. She's terrified of a life where she can't have the things that she wants. And she wants some pretty expensive things. Roy, on the other hand, never had much money and doesn't seem particularly worried about it. That is, until he becomes obsessed with Memo, who needs a rich husband. Now his poverty's a big problem that he has to find a way to solve.

Questions About Poverty

  1. If Roy had come from a rich family that supported his dream, would he still be so ambitious?
  2. What is the relationship between the past and poverty in the novel? How do characters remember their early life and financial circumstances?
  3. What is it about baseball that is so attractive for Roy as a get-rich-quick scheme?
  4. The Judge and Gus are the only characters in the novel who have a lot of money. What does this fact tell us about the novel's attitude about wealth?

Chew on This

The novel reflects American society's views about wealth and poverty in the years after World War II, when the Great Depression was still a recent memory but the country was enjoying the postwar big bucks.

Do Roy and Memo feel shame about not having money?