Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

W. P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe is a lyrical fantasy that makes creative use of the importance of baseball in the collective memory of Americans in order to explore attempts to recapture the past and to come to terms with the death of parents. The novel seems to be a curious mixture of autobiography, fiction, and historical reality: It includes several characters whose last name is the same as the author’s; real people, such as writer J. D. Salinger and the eight Chicago White Sox players who were banned from baseball for their participation in the so-called Black Sox Scandal of 1919; and clearly fantastic elements, such as the return of dead people to life.

Shoeless Joe is a first-person narrative told by Ray Kinsella. Ray has a loving wife and a beautiful daughter, but something is missing in his life. He still regrets that he never made peace with his father, a hardworking laborer who died shortly before Ray married Annie. John Kinsella spoke repeatedly to his son both of his love for baseball and of his belief that Shoeless Joe Jackson did not participate in the conspiracy to throw the 1919 World Series. Like any adolescent, Ray liked to argue with his parents, but his criticism of Shoeless Joe hurt his father’s feelings. Ray wishes that he could change the past and express his appreciation and love to his late father.

A series of almost incomprehensible events enables Ray to accomplish this dream. Twice, a voice from...

(The entire section is 423 words.)