Because this question is posted in Literature, it seems to refer to the novel Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella, so this answer will address question in terms of the novel. The quotation is featured prominently both in the novel and in the film version, whose title Field of...
Because this question is posted in Literature, it seems to refer to the novel Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella, so this answer will address question in terms of the novel. The quotation is featured prominently both in the novel and in the film version, whose title Field of Dreams emphasizes the importance of dreams. In Shoeless Joe, the sentence “If you build it, he will come” seems like a daydream, but it also becomes the leitmotif of the entire novel. The protagonist, Ray Kinsella, first struggles to understand its message. After he decides what it means, he sets out to achieve his dream, or goal, to build a baseball field and in turn to attract the person he believes is the “he.” The field also provides a central metaphor for Ray’s quest to repair a damaged past and, ultimately, to create a better future.
Ray, who has the personality of a dreamer, had given up a dull job to become a farmer in Iowa. Ray loves baseball and, perhaps even more, he associates baseball with the love that his father—deceased for many years—had for the game, and with his father’s countless baseball stories. The most memorable story was about “Shoeless” Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox. Although the players were expelled from baseball over a bribery scandal in the 1919 World Series, Ray’s father staunchly believed in Jackson’s innocence. This passion for baseball and Ray’s need to reconnect with his father inspire him to believe that he should turn part of his farm into a baseball field.
Because the novel is a fantasy, Ray’s pursuit of this dream yields both natural and supernatural success. He is not merely diligent, but obsessive in working toward the goal, to the extent that he neglects his family and his financial responsibilities. Yet after he does complete the field, his dreams about the Chicago team become reality, in a sense, as Shoeless Joe and the other long-dead players appear in the field.
Ray’s dream does not stop with constructing the field, however. He continues to react to messages he hears, and embarks on another, even more complicated quest involving the author J.D. Salinger. In that case, Salinger finally gets caught up in Ray’s world, with the message “fulfill the dream.”
The plot strands come together, first as his father appears and his brother mends the rift they once had, then as they join the players to play ball—thus, a dream of healing and reconciliation is fulfilled. Finally, as the field can now help generate income for Ray and his family, his dream of being a successful farmer and provider comes true. Building the field thus refers both to Ray’s steadily applying himself to the hard work of the actual field and to achieving his goal, and the “he” is both his father and his own fully realized self.