Magical realism (also called magic realism) is a literary movement often associated with Latin-American authors. Magical realism attempts to establish a realistic setting in which fantastic or paranormal events are accepted as part of the natural world order. Characters who encounter "magic" in their world accept it as a real, concrete event, which serves to draw the reader into the author's creation.
W.P. Kinsella develops magical realism in Shoeless Joe by allowing his characters to discover that their dreams can be realized as long as they are willing to suspend their skepticism and embrace their imagination.
I would argue there are three seminal moments of magical realism in Shoeless Joe.
- After Ray and Salinger talk with the elderly Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, Ray encounters a reincarnation of the younger Graham and decides to help him achieve his dream to play baseball with Shoeless Joe Jackson.
- As fans flock to Ray's field to watch the other reincarnated players, Salinger accepts the ballplayers' offer to join them as they disappear into the cornfield.
- Ray has a game of catch with his father's younger self, which allows Ray to bury the resentments of his past.
Characters within Kinsella's world accept these events as real, which seems to strengthen the emotional impact of the magical realism in the novel.