Roy Hobbs was born to be a Great Man. In addition to the physical gifts of a natural athlete, Roy possesses the traits of a moral hero: empathy, reflectivity, and autonomy. Yet he fails both as baseball hero and moral hero. Why? In The Natural, Malamud tackles the age-old philosophical problem of free will versus determinism. Through narrative, he presents the novel argument that though there is no free will, there is the possibility of a moral will through determinism, in particular through the example of the moral hero who has been nurtured to be strong enough to be good.

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