What is the thesis of Shoeless Joe?

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P. Kinsella's main point in Shoeless Joe can be found within the message that Ray hears: "if you build it, he will come." Ray sets out to make a ball field with the intention of accommodating Jackson and the other long-gone players, but he discovers strength within himself to persevere. This dedication to reaching a goal is significant because Ray has tended to lose interest in projects. Similarly, he believes that the message for J. D. Salinger, "Ease his pain," is about helping the reclusive author. In that case, rather than the intellectual labor of planning and organizing and the physical labor of construction, Ray must go on a quest and sustain the emotional labor of accompanying another person.

Through both projects, Ray learns to tackle something profoundly challenging and stay with it till it is complete—which includes satisfying him. Kinsella emphasizes the combination of idealism and pragmatism that can sustain a person for the long haul.

In Ray's case, he also learns that the "he" is both his father and himself. Before he can fully embrace his own responsibilities as a father and an adult, he must resolve the unfinished business he feels as a child in relationship to his own father.

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