What are the similarities and differences between how Ray from Shoeless Joe and Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea end up achieving their goals?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Before discussing the similarities and differences between Santiago (of Ernest Hemingway's 1952 novella The Old Man and the Sea) and Ray (of W. P. Kinsella's 1982 fantasy novel Shoeless Joe ), it is necessary first to identify their goals. The two books are very different, but both manifest...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Before discussing the similarities and differences between Santiago (of Ernest Hemingway's 1952 novella The Old Man and the Sea) and Ray (of W. P. Kinsella's 1982 fantasy novel Shoeless Joe), it is necessary first to identify their goals. The two books are very different, but both manifest a hero's journey. One similarity between the heroes is their disposition in life; both are beyond the conventional hero's young adult age (though Santiago is older—so old, in fact, that he is almost always referred to as simply the "old man").

The old man's goal is, in essence, to become Santiago again—he who was once given the epithet El Campeòn ("the champion") as a younger man. His goal is (more expressly) to become a successful fisherman again.

Ray Kinsella's goal at the outset of Shoeless Joe is simply to keep his family provided for and his struggling farm from imminent bankruptcy. One day, he hears a radio announcer's voice declaring that he must "build it," and "he will come." Ray's childhood lessons from his father help Ray to understand intuitively what is meant by the oblique message: that the ill-fated "Shoeless Joe" of the 1919 World Series bribery scandal (a hero of Ray's father) will return to play if Ray builds a baseball diamond in his corn fields. Despite the misgivings of his family and acquaintances, it comes to pass. However, unbeknownst to Ray, his goal is not yet accomplished; the same radio announcer's voice then says to "ease his pain"—a message which Ray misinterprets to refer to the pain of J. D. Salinger, when in fact it refers to his father's pain. Ray understands this after an apparition of his father's younger self appears playing as catcher on Ray's baseball field.

In addition to the relative ages of the protagonists (the "old man" Santiago versus the middle-aged Ray Kinsella), their goals are also different in nature. Kinsella's goal is more of a journey (first to build his field, then to find J. D. Salinger, then to resurrect his relationship with his late father), while Santiago's is more of a single task (to catch the marlin).

Two similarities include the apparent uphill battles that both protagonists face. The aged (though not frail) Santiago has not caught a fish in 85 days when he sets out in the Gulf Stream, and Kinsella's farm is on the verge of bankruptcy when he decides to sacrifice his crops to build his field.

Additionally, both protagonists are slightly misguided when it comes to interpreting their goals. Santiago catches his marlin and thus proves his mettle, but he is soon placed at the carcass's mercy as sharks devour it. Ray Kinsella thinks that he is to attract "Shoeless Joe," but in reality Shoeless Joe is only a gateway to reaching his own father.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team