Discuss the appropriateness of the quote by Robert Kennedy in Shoeless Joe.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Even though the quote was actually from Shaw, Kennedy's quote is highly appropriate in Kinsella's work.  The basis of the narrative is that Ray sees things that others do not.  When people like Mark question Ray about why he does what he does, Ray responds on a different level.  When others do not see the baseball game being played on his "field of dreams," Ray does.  When others cannot understand what the messages mean, Ray does.  

The collision between the world's inability to embrace dreams and Ray's incessant need to see reality as it should be is where the quote is highly appropriate.  The context of the quote is a fundamental crash between how the world is seen and how it can or should be seen.  This is how Ray stands in opposition to nearly everyone and everything around him.  Ray's continual drive in the novel is to say "Why not" when no one else does.  This animating spirit of dreaming  is what motivates his character.  It is also the fundamental spirit of the quote, making it appropriate to use in Kinsella's novel.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The epigraph of the book is a quote from Robert Kennedy: "Some men see things as they are, and say why, I dream of things that never were, and say why not." This quote is relevant to the book because Ray Kinsella, the protagonist, decides to build a baseball field in the middle of Iowa. He hears a voice telling him that if he builds the field, the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson (and, later, the rest of the 1919 Chicago White Sox baseball team) will appear on the field.

Obeying this mystical voice, Ray Kinsella constructs a field, and Shoeless Joe and the other players arrive to play on it. Those who do not believe in dreams, such as Kinsella's brother-in-law Mark, cannot see the field. Only believers, or people who dream of things that never were as in the quote, can see the players on the field. This is a book about dreams and about conjuring up things that never were.