What is J.D Salinger's act of redemption in Shoeless Joe?

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In W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe, the character J.D. Salinger (the famed author of The Catcher in the Rye) is sought out by the protagonist , struggling farmer Ray Kinsella, after he hears a message calling him to “Ease his pain.” The “his,” Ray believes, refers to his...

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In W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe, the character J.D. Salinger (the famed author of The Catcher in the Rye) is sought out by the protagonist, struggling farmer Ray Kinsella, after he hears a message calling him to “Ease his pain.” The “his,” Ray believes, refers to his literary hero Salinger. Shoeless Joe is a work of magical realism, and already in the novel Ray has constructed an enchanted ball field in the middle of his cornfield in order to redeem the career of the titular baseball player, as well as several other minor players in baseball’s history, including Ray’s own father.

Meanwhile, Salinger’s act of redemption comes by devising a way that Ray can pay off his huge farm debts and keep his property. Salinger suggests Ray turn the magical ball field, in which Shoeless Joe and others play their baseball games, into a tourist attraction. Salinger’s plan works; even as he is relaying the idea to Ray, cars begin to arrive to the cornfield. Later, Salinger is invited to disappear into the mysterious cornfield along with the players, and, although he has been a recluse and hasn’t published new work for decades, he promises to write about what lies beyond.

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Frustrated life goals is thematic of W. P. Kinsella's novel. His main character, a farmer in Iowa named Ray Kinsella hears voices that tell him to build a baseball field in one of his corn fields. An avid fan of baseball himself and somewhat of a dreamer, Kinsella listens to these voices as he regrets his relationship with his now deceased father and wishes he could somehow repair this relationship.

When he hears of the reclusive life that his favorite author J.D. Salinger now lives and hears voices telling him, "Ease his pain," Ray believes he is called upon to find the author because he has read a moving baseball story written by Salinger. He hopes to move Salinger to write again. After he finds Salinger and convinces him to accompany him back to Iowa, Salinger speaks to Ray of the power of imagination, a power that is ignited in himself, as well, as Ray reawakens Salinger's love of baseball as he tells Ray, “Something has dialed us to the same frequency.”

Salinger hears voices,too. He is told, "Fulfill the dream." The power of his imagination inspires Salinger to work with Ray and bring reality to mirror their dreams. In this mutual endeavor, Salinger is renewed (redeemed) as an author, and Ray is reunited with his father and his conflicts resolved with the power of the love of baseball that they all share.

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