Study Guide

The Natural Strength and Skill

By Bernard Malamud

Strength and Skill

The Natural refers to a guy who's a natural talent at baseball. So you shouldn't be surprised that strength and skill are major themes in the novel. In fact, the loss of strength and skill is one of the major themes. And this can happen for many reasons, but it usually has to do with a wicked woman. Whether it's a serial killer who shoots young, successful athletes or a gold-digging girlfriend who overfeeds, and possibly poisons Roy, these women sap the strength of our hero.

Questions About Strength and Skill

  1. Who would win in a wrestling match, Bump or Roy? The Judge or Pop? Why?
  2. The novel often identifies women with weakness. What examples can you find of where this is true?
  3. Why do you think that Harriet Bird is obsessed with only the best athletes?
  4. The baseball field is the main scene of competition in the novel, but there are other settings where tests of strength and skill take place. Name a few and explain how they set up the competition.

Chew on This

The novel supports the stereotype that men are strong and women are the weaker sex.

In The Natural, the characters lose their strength through their relationships with dangerous women, proving that women are actually the stronger gender.