How do the literary devices, themes, symbolism, and diction in this passage from Shoeless Joe relate to the overall story?

Building a baseball field is more work than you might imagine. I laid out a whole field, but it was there in spirit only. It was really only left field that concerned me. Home plate was made from pieces of cracked two-by-four embedded in the earth. The pitcher’s rubber rocked like a cradle when I stood on it. The bases were stray blocks of wood, unanchored. There was no backstop or grandstand, only one shaky bleacher beyond the left-field wall. There was a left-field wall, but only about fifty feet of it, twelve feet high, stained dark green and braced from the rear. And the left-field grass. My intuition told me that it was the grass that was important. It took me three seasons to hone that grass to its proper texture, to its proper color. I made trips to Minneapolis and one or two other cities where the stadiums still have natural-grass infields and outfields. I would arrive hours before a game and watch the groundskeepers groom the field like a prize animal, then stay after the game when in the cool of the night the same groundsmen appeared with hoses, hoes, and rakes, and patched the grasses like medics attending to wounded soldiers.

Expert Answers

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

First, in the passage, there are a few examples of figurative language. Ray says that the pitcher's mound "rocked like a cradle when I stood on it." This is a simile (a comparison of two unalike things where one thing is said to be like or as something else); the pitcher's mound is compared to a cradle, something that rocks. For obvious reasons, the pitcher's mound should be stable and not move around when the pitcher steps atop it. He employs two more similes when he says that he would "watch the groundskeepers groom the field like a prize animal" before the game and patch "the grasses like medics attending to wounded soldiers" afterward. He compares the perfectly-kept field to a prize animal who is neatly and carefully groomed, and then he compares the groundskeepers who work on the played-on, banged-up field to war medics.

I think you could, perhaps, read the work the narrator puts into preparing the field itself as symbolic of the work one needs to put into any dream. Dreams certainly become possible when one puts such honest and good work into making them come true: this is also a theme of the work. Just as Ray must tend the grass so carefully in this passage, he must also tend to himself: he has to listen to his own inner voice and trust it, as we all must.

The diction used in this passage is quite conversational. Ray uses only a little bit of baseball jargon (left field, home plate, pitcher's rubber, cases, grandstand, and so forth), but nothing so extreme that the average reader cannot understand the gist of the passage. This seems pretty consistent and expected given the subject of the entire text.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What literary devices are found in this quote from the book Shoeless Joe, and what do they mean? How does this passage relate to the theme of the story? How can you identify if there is symbolism in this passage? How can you identify any special diction used that relates to the story? Building a baseball field is more work than you might imagine. I laid out a whole field, but it was there in spirit only. It was really only left field that concerned me. Home plate was made from pieces of cracked two-by-four embedded in the earth. The pitcher’s rubber rocked like a cradle when I stood on it. The bases were stray blocks of wood, unanchored. There was no backstop or grandstand, only one shaky bleacher beyond the left-field wall. There was a left-field wall, but only about fifty feet of it, twelve feet high, stained dark green and braced from the rear. And the left-field grass. My intuition told me that it was the grass that was important. It took me three seasons to hone that grass to its proper texture, to its proper color. I made trips to Minneapolis and one or two other cities where the stadiums still have natural-grass infields and outfields. I would arrive hours before a game and watch the groundskeepers groom the field like a prize animal, then stay after the game when in the cool of the night the same groundsmen appeared with hoses, hoes, and rakes, and patched the grasses like medics attending to wounded soldiers.

There are multiple parts to your assignment so this answer addresses some key issues. Please keep in mind that a homework question on our site is intended to be one question.

The larger issue of the relationship of the passage to the larger work is connected to the literary devices, including similes and metaphors. The idea of building the field is used throughout Shoeless Joe to stand for Ray's determination in pursuing a noble cause, similar to a medieval quest. In that regard, building the field is a central conceit for living a person's life. The literary device of the "conceit" is also called an "extended metaphor" or "sustained metaphor."

This passage clearly shows the relationship between dreaming and doing. The fine-grained detail helps the reader imagine the field and believe the narrator when he says that building a field is more work than the reader would think.

The use of similes in the passage is pronounced. Similes are one kind of literary device, a comparison with "like" or "as."

The pitcher's rubber rocked like a cradle . . . .

. . . the groundskeepers groom the field like a prize animal . . . .

. . . the same groundsmen . . . patched the grasses like medics attending to wounded soldiers.

All three similes relate to caring or living-beings in some way. The cradle, although here referencing motion, is a baby's bed, an animal that is prized would be well cared for, and the soldiers would need tender attention to recover from their wounds. They support the idea of the life in the field.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on