What are three challenges Ray faces in his journey in Shoeless Joe?

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Though the protagonist of William Patrick Kinsella's 1982 novel, Shoeless Joe, is middle-aged, the novel resembles a bildungsroman to the extent that Ray encounters a series of obstacles to discover a happier self. The book is a magic realist hero's journey, as his obstacles are several.

One obstacle is...

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Ray's interpersonal conflict with his brother-in-law Mark. Mark, a "burgeoning business tycoon" (55) and judgmental character, believes that Ray is going crazy when he puts stock in the radio announcer's disembodied voices that only he can hear. Mark constantly challenges Ray, asking "isn't it about time you grew up?" and threatens that "this monstrosity will be the first thing to go, and I'll drive the bulldozer myself" after he sees the accomplished field (215).

Another conflict is the practical financial burden imposed by the baseball field. Kinsella has been operating "an inch from bankruptcy" (5) since buying the farm. Specifically, the opportunity cost of devoting the farm to the field and sacrificing the crops is something that Kinsella himself is hard pressed to accept; however, he feels so compelled by the persistent instructions from the voice, that he has no other choice.

Finally, Kinsella faces the task of obstacle of convincing writer J.D. Salinger to come with him to a baseball game. Ray is inspired to do this when the (now familiar) voice tells him to "ease his pain," (wherein the "his" is ambiguous). Ray is convinced that he is being instructed to resuscitate Salinger's love of baseball. Ray drives all the way to Salinger's home in Vermont, where he is led to Salinger by the local town's residents. He offers him a baseball and pretends to have no further motive. Salinger, a recluse, is skeptical, but joins him. It is at this Red Sox game that Salinger is convinced of the validity of Kinsella's mission, as he sees a line on the scoreboard of the Player Register of the Baseball Encyclopedia. The two men are the only ones who see the unusual message. Salinger then joins Kinsella on his mission to Minnesota find out more about the little-known player referred to on the Fenway scoreboard: Archibald "Moonlight" Graham.

Ultimately, Ray Kinsella's unique determination when faced with obstacles represented by a family feud, financial circumstance, and geography (as his travels take him to Vermont to Minnesota to find Salinger and Graham, respectively), make his achievement with the field (and the otherworldly visitors it draws) more meaningful as a success.

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