How is the novel Shoeless Joe an example of the magical realism genre?
W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe is more widely known in its film adaptation, Field of Dreams. This novel fits the magical realism genre because fantasy elements are presented in a realistic way. Magic meets the mundane setting of an Iowa farm.
To briefly summarize the plot, baseball enthusiast Ray Kinsella hears a voice telling him to build a baseball field on his farm—the famous, “If you build it, he will come” invitation. Ray’s father’s hero, the scandalized late baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson, magically appears to play on the field, along with other dead players. The novel explains neither the mysterious voice nor the fantastic appearance of the players, a common feature of magic realist literature.
A subplot involves Ray seeking out the reclusive writer J.D. Salinger after the mysterious voice tells him, “Ease his pain.” Salinger too has received an elusive message from a possibly supernatural source: “Fulfill the dream.” The novel again asks readers to suspend their disbelief when Salinger and Ray travel to Minnesota to find out information about the deceased Archie “Moonlight” Graham. Ray fantastically encounters 75-year-old Graham, finding himself magically transported to 1955. The next day, Salinger and Ray pick up a young hitchhiker in a baseball uniform who introduces himself as Archie Graham. Again, these magical elements are not explained and coexist with the realism of the mundane world. The reader must accept on faith these detours into dreamlike fantasy. In the sentimental ending of the novel, this magic realism allows Ray to reunite with his deceased father, granting him a redemptive moment to make peace with the past.