What Is the Book "Shoeless Joe" About?


Quick Answer

W. P. Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe is about an Iowa farmer who is compelled by spirit voices to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. Once the field is mostly complete, the ghosts of dead baseball players, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, materialize to play baseball on it. The novel was adapted for the popular film Field Of Dreams.

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What Is the Book "Shoeless Joe" About?
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Full Answer

The story in Shoeless Joe unfolds across five separate sections. Although the narrative framework of the story revolves around the baseball field that Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella plows under his corn crop to build, the book gradually expands its focus. The ghostly voices lead Ray to bring reclusive writer J. D. Salinger, old family doctor Archibald Graham and an elderly man named Eddie Scissons together in Iowa. Other than Scissons, these characters are loosely based on real-life persons.

Author W. P. Kinsella (the main character in Shoeless Joe shares his last name) uses Shoeless Joe Jackson, Salinger, Graham and Scissons to explore themes of nostalgia, loss and redemption. Jackson, for instance, simply wants to play baseball with his ghostly friends again, after having been barred from the game after the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Salinger, Graham and Scissons have their own issues resolved on the magical baseball field in the corn.

This builds to the climax of the novel when Ray discovers that the real magic of the baseball diamond was to lead him to reconcile with his own family. Ray and his brother put past differences behind them, and Ray eventually gathers enough courage to speak with the ghost of his own father. The ending of the book is slightly different from the ending of the film adaptation in this regard. The movie also omits the characters of Ray's brother Richard and that of Eddie Scissons.

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