What is the thesis of Shoeless Joe?

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P. Kinsella's main point in Shoeless Joe can be found within the message that Ray hears: "if you build it, he will come." Ray sets out to make a ball field with the intention of accommodating Jackson and the other long-gone players, but he discovers strength within himself to persevere. This dedication to reaching a goal is significant because Ray has tended to lose interest in projects. Similarly, he believes that the message for J. D. Salinger, "Ease his pain," is about helping the reclusive author. In that case, rather than the intellectual labor of planning and organizing and the physical labor of construction, Ray must go on a quest and sustain the emotional labor of accompanying another person.

Through both projects, Ray learns to tackle something profoundly challenging and stay with it till it is complete—which includes satisfying him. Kinsella emphasizes the combination of idealism and pragmatism that can sustain a person for the long haul.

In Ray's case, he also learns that the "he" is both his father and himself. Before he can fully embrace his own responsibilities as a father and an adult, he must resolve the unfinished business he feels as a child in relationship to his own father.

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What are the themes of Shoeless Joe?

I would assert that the thematic link present is that reality is largely defined by the ability to see what can be as opposed to what is.  The driving force in the novel is Ray's desire to transform his reality through imagining what can be as opposed to what is.  Mowing down his crops to spend three years in building the field represents a sense of imagination that allows him to transform his reality.  In an almost dream like pursuit of Salinger, Ray again seeks to make his reality in alignment with his own sense of imagination.  To observe the players on the field, one has to learn to "see." 

This ability to see is the possession of imagination, something that Mark lacks.  It is also something that Ray's brother lacks until Ray teaches him how to use his imagination.  The expansion of a moral imagination allows reality to mirror dreams, as evidenced in how Ray's brother and father emerging with connection.  The end of the story, where Ray becomes the active force behind others' dreams and their imagination, helps them to transform their reality, as well.

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