What are some symbols in the book Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella? 

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Shoeless Joeis Canadian author W. P. Kinsella 's first book, published in 1982. The story is about Ray Kinsella, who has a mystical experience when he hears an otherworldly voice instructing him to plow up his farm and build a baseball field. As the story progresses, the voices encourage...

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Shoeless Joe is Canadian author W. P. Kinsella's first book, published in 1982. The story is about Ray Kinsella, who has a mystical experience when he hears an otherworldly voice instructing him to plow up his farm and build a baseball field. As the story progresses, the voices encourage Ray to kidnap a famous writer. Ray and the writer eventually meet Shoeless Joe Jackson, as well as many other long-deceased famous baseball players.

One of the more interesting themes in the story is Kinsella's elevation of baseball to a sacrament rather than just a pastime. Whenever Ray speaks of the game, it is in reverential terms. But he not only genuinely loves the game itself, he also loves the physical space where all the magic and mystery of the game occurs:

A ballpark at night is more like a church than a church.

The fact that Ray is actively hearing voices instructing him to build a ball field amplifies the spiritual theme of this story. Here, especially poetic language is used in describing how a pitcher dispatches a ball:

He cranks up his arm, rears back, and throws, and the ball, taking an even more perfect path than it took off the bat, travels in a white arc, seeming to leave behind a line like a streak of forgotten rainbow as it drops over the fence, silent as a star falling into a distant ocean.

To the author/protagonist, baseball is much more than just a game. It is something he was born into and makes sense for him. And Kinsella believes a good, fair game is a metaphor for how we should treat each other. The author explores this theme through the reunification of Kinsella with his father near the end of the novel. Baseball is a uniquely American game with the power to unite and re-unite.

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The field that Ray builds is a symbol in itself. Ray first describes "coddling that field like a child" (page 8). The field is the repository of dreams, and Ray builds it and nurses it like it is a child. Eventually, the field becomes magic when "Shoeless" Joe Jackson shows up. Then, the field is described as "soft as a child's breath," while "moonlight butters the whole Iowa night" (page 13). The field, a shabby stretch of crabgrass, becomes as real as any baseball field, with players, vendors, and a crowd. The field is a symbol of Ray's dreams and of the hopes that players will show up.

Ray's farm is also a symbol. Ray describes it in the following way: "All around me the clean smell of earth and water. Keeping my hands buried I stirred the earth with my fingers and I knew I loved Iowa as much as man could love a piece of earth" (page 16). He describes this experience as having "religious significance." The farm stands for earthly things that can also become magical. Many aspects of nature also take on magical symbolism in the book. Ray describes the stars as acting in a magical way: "I swear the stars have moved in close enough to eavesdrop" (page 19). Nature is alive in the book, and the stars are also symbols of this type of magic. 

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