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In Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, which suggests a mythological cycle of birth and death based on the seasons of baseball, the train represents birth. As the story opens and the characters are introduced, we find them in a train to Chicago. Roy Hobbs is nineteen and about to launch a very promising career in baseball. As the train yanked its long tail out of the thundering tunnel, the kneeling reflection dissolved and he felt a splurge of freedom at the view of the moon-hazed Western hills bulked against night broken by sprays of summer lightning, although the season was early spring.

(Pre-game, p. 1) At first encounter, the train is identified as a means of transportation, a vehicle that will bring our hero to his destination and proposed destiny as a glorified ballplayer. However, when Malamud described the emergence of the train from the tunnel with Roy inside and staring out at the darkness from his window, the train transcends being a mere vehicle and defines the birthing of hero which is similar to the experience of a newborn baby who from the “kneeling reflection” suddenly “felt a splurge of freedom” as it enters the world (Pre-game, p. 1).

That the season was “early spring” further suggests this metaphor (Pre-game, p. 1). I find this “birth” as most appropriate for the hero figure that Roy Hobbs depicts as it is more definitive rather than be given an insight to the biological beginning of the country bumpkin who wants to be “the best in the game” or how he even came to be such a “natural. ” In the progression of the story, Malamud once more uses the significance of the train during Hobbs’ slump as he writes He longed for a friend, a father, a home to return to–saw himself packing his duds in a suitcase, buying a ticket, and running for a train.

Beyond the first station he’d fling Wonderboy out the window. (Years later, an old man returning to the city for a visit, he would scan the flats to see if it was there, glowing in the mud. ) The train sped through the night across the country. In it he felt safe. He tittered. ” (Ch. 5, p. 61) In the excerpt, it is clear that Hobbs, now thirty-four, resorted to the idea of the train ride as a baby might yearn to go back to the security of its mother’s womb since it was the train which marked his birth into the world of baseball.

The train suggested a means of escape to somewhere safer, or perhaps as a possibility of going back to the past and turn his present around. At this point, it is quite apparent how much the train or its invocation by Hobbs marks the protagonist’s character. Somehow, such an impression describes Roy Hobbs as less the hero he wants to project but more realistically as a person. This brings to light how he reacts to Iris Lemon regarding his role as a player and as a man: “Couldn’t you be satisfied with just breaking a few?

” Her pinpricking was beginning to annoy him. “Not if I could break most of them,” he insisted. “But I don’t understand why you should make so much of that. Are your values so–” He heard a train hoot and went freezing cold. “Where’s that train? ” he cried, jumping to his feet. “What train? ” He stared into the night. “The one I just heard. ” “It must have been a bird cry. There are no trains here. ” (Ch. 6, p. 69) At her questions, Hobbs resorts to hearing the train, which has become his security blanket.

It can be noted that Iris’ query about his role is similar to Harriet Bird’s when she had been drawing what she wanted to hear from Hobbs during his first train ride to Chicago. This may have triggered him to evoke the train once more as a form of defense. And contrary to what the train represented to Hobbs, Iris is depicted as a symbol of maturity, with her questions forming the avenue for him to reconcile with his fears and become man enough to be a true hero.

It may be that the train was symbolized a blessing for Hobbs in the beginning of the story, being as it was a vehicle of his identity. However, if we delve into how Hobbs utilizes this symbol, the train appears as antagonistic to his growth as the other obstacles in the story. Although it represented fertility in the cycle, the aid for the hero’s birth, it likewise prevented Hobbs from attaining his full potential as a person and as a ballplayer when he clings to the train as a means of defense and escape.

Work Cited Malamud, Bernard. “The Natural. ” 1952.

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