(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The meaning of Shoeless Joe may not be immediately clear to readers: Why should they care if Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven other dead members of the 1919 White Sox get the opportunity to play baseball once again, or if Ray Kinsella succeeds in persuading J. D. Salinger that he should resume writing fiction? Readers gradually come to the realization, however, that the main themes of Shoeless Joe are not associated with baseball but rather with death and individuals’ attempts to deal with the past. Like all people, Ray Kinsella wishes that he could change his past and have a final conversation with his late father. Readers know that this is impossible; nevertheless, they wish that reality could correspond to one’s dreams.

When he first hears the voice telling him “If you build it, he will come” and “Ease his pain,” Ray Kinsella assumes that the voice is referring only to Shoeless Joe Jackson, and he builds only a left field because Shoeless Joe was a left fielder. He believes that this will “ease the pain” of Shoeless Joe, who was banned for life by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis from the sport that had brought him so much happiness. Although quite beautiful and green, Ray’s left field is not a complete baseball field, and, when Shoeless Joe arrives, he persuades Ray that there are other players who would like to play; Ray then builds a complete baseball field. He also discovers that only those who believe in the miraculous happenings on his baseball diamond see the ghostly players and learn anything from them. Ray’s brother-in-law, Mark, who thinks only of all the money that could be made...

(The entire section is 671 words.)