How do the two novels, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover and Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, compare? Please help me analyze these two novels....

How do the two novels, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover and Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, compare?

Please help me analyze these two novels. Please note that the thing you analyze must be mentioned in these two novels at the same time (the point of view overlapping in these two novel, such as American Dream, Religion, etc.)

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both novels address the transformative capacity of baseball on the individual. In The Universal Baseball Association, Inc, J. Henry Waugh, Prop., the world of baseball transforms Henry's reality.  This transformation enables him to enter a world that is fundamentally not real.  However, in his desire to find a realm where the "magic of excellence" is praised, Henry descends into the world of baseball.  Interestingly enough, Henry does not like "real" baseball.  Rather, he enters the world of baseball (a domain that parallels modern fantasy baseball), as a means to embrace "balance" and "accountability."  In many ways, baseball is the realm to escape from the modern world.  The world of the Universal Baseball Association possesses more in way of interest, vitality, and connection than the real world in which Henry lives.  

The power of control that Henry feels as his role as "Commissioner" or the God- like figure of the Universal Baseball Association is something he uses to appropriate whatever little aspect of the "real world" that he can.  In making love to Hettie, the baseball imagery is deliberate:  “...pushing and pulling, they ran the bases, pounded into first, slid into second heels high, somersaulted over third, shot home standing up, then into the box once more, swing away, and run them all again.”  The world of baseball is the means by which the real world is perceived and from which there is retreat.  Reality has become supplanted by a world that is not real, and the blurring of lines between both reflects the challenge of a created world in the midst of the real one:  "...from the extreme economy of factual data to the overblown idiom of the sportswriter, from the scientific objectivity of the theoreticians to the literary speculations of essayists and anecdotalists. There were tape-recorded dialogues, player contributions, election coverage, obituaries, satires, prophecies, scandals.”  In this light, baseball is a way to create an alternate reality that is more desirable than the real world.  Baseball subsumes Henry, almost cutting him off from the rest of the world in the process.

The construction of the world of baseball is a significant aspect of Shoeless Joe. The primary difference is that baseball is a part of the real world.  For Ray Kinsella, baseball is the cable box that unscrambles the signal and makes reality more understandable.  It is the link that individuals share to bring meaning into their lives.  The religion aspect of baseball is not shown to supplant real life, but rather enhance it.  When Ray speaks of the game in religious terms, it accentuates living as opposed to replacing it:   "We're not just ordinary people, we're a congregation." When Ray talks about baseball fans, it is a means to connect with the world and not supplant it.  Ray continues this with the idea that A ballpark at night "is more like a church than a church."  These are expressions of baseball that enable the sport to bring meaning into the world.  Baseball makes life better.  It is not meant to replace the pain of life.  It alleviates it.  When Ray describes the game of baseball in Fenway Park, it speaks to the condition of consciousness in which baseball is a part of reality, the better part of it:  "...the year might be 1900 or 1920 or 1979, for all the field itself has changed. Here the sense of urgency that governs most lives is pushed to one side."  Ray speaks to baseball in a means where more people can be integrated into it.  While Henry is more subsumed with baseball as it becomes a dividing wedge between he and the world, Ray sees it as a means to create community and form solidarity.  Ray never intends to see baseball as a means to replace life.  Unlike Henry who flees into the world of baseball to escape the drudgery of his life, Ray sees baseball as a soothing elixir that makes life more livable.

In both works, baseball is shown to possess a transformative capacity on the individual.  For Henry, this transformation is a means of replacement.  Ray sees this as a means of coping.  In both realities, baseball is more than a game.  It represents a vital part of being in the world.  The composition of individual identity rests in baseball.  The extent to which the individual submerges themselves in it or embraces it as a part of being in the world becomes the primary transformative difference in both narratives.