Bernard Malamud relates a story of a baseball player, Roy Hobbs, who went from a small farm to the big city life to play baseball in The Natural. The story creates a contrast between the evils of the city and the purity of the countryside. Roy begins the story on a train heading to Chicago and immediately falls into trouble with the new city life. He defeats a baseball giant, The Whammer and instantly has the fame of a major league baseball player.

In his glory, he charms a woman, Harriet Bird, who he had an eye on the whole trip. The feeling of triumph only lasts for a short period of time before he finds out that he has injured (and eventually killed) his only friend, Sam. In addition to this, he makes it to the city to be shot and nearly killed only a couple of minutes after he had checked into his hotel, by the one person alive he still cared about, Harriet. Fifteen years pass until the next time anyone hears of Roy Hobbs again.

Determined to make it big in the major league, Roy joins a pathetic team, the Knights. He soon learned that he had to prove himself to the coach, Pop Fisher, in order to have a starting position. The only way to accomplish this, however, was to defeat a baseball great, Bump Bailey. The conflict is resolved when Bump tried to outplay Roy and crashed into the fence and eventually died. Roy then led the team to a miraculous drive to the pennant. Pop Fisher, with a desire to win the world championship, became a good friend and leader to Roy.

Pops motivations changed when Judge Banner harassed him in an effort to get Pop to resign and profit off the teams success. Roy begins to fall in love with Pop Fishers niece and ex-girlfriend of the Whammer, Memo Paris. Pop warned Roy that she would eventually bring him down, but he continued with the relationship. Even after he found out that she was connected with the Judge, Roy still stayed with Memo.

He also had a relationship with Iris who helped him out of a slump one game when she stood up while he was batting. The story ends with Roy getting sick and almost missing the last game of the season, which was the championship game. He recovers and there is a conflict between Roy and Memo ending up in Roy accepting a bribe in order to stay with Memo. He played the game and ended up splitting Wonder boy, his famous bat, trying to win the game, but ended up striking out. He went to the Judges office and threw the bribe at him.

Roy went outside, took a stack of newspapers, and started yelling, Say it aint true Roy.