Shoeless Joe Book Club Discussion – Day 4

Shoeless Joe Book Club Discussion – Day 4

Good morning and welcome to Day 4 of our book club discussion of Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella.  Today’s discussion questions are:

  • Shoeless Joe is a story about the “Great American Pastime” set on a farm in America’s heartland and featuring a character who wrote a book that could easily be considered the “Great American Novel.” What, if anything, do you think Kinsella is trying to say about America and the American dream with this book?
  • In the book the past (especially as it relates to baseball) is presented in a very rose-colored, nostalgic light even though it was tainted by corruption and loss (Shoeless Joe), missed opportunities (Moonlight Graham), or was made up completely (Eddie Scissons). Why do you think that is? Is an imperfect dream better than not dreaming at all?

Share your thoughts and opinions here in the comments or stop by the C.S. Facebook page and join in the conversation there.

Click here to see our full discussion so far.

 

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7 Responses to Shoeless Joe Book Club Discussion – Day 4

  1. Shoeless Joe is a book about dreams and dreamers. I mean, there is a reason why the film version is called Field of Dreams. I am not sure I can fully articulate everything that Kinsella is trying to say about the American dream (at least not without writing a lot more than anyone really wants to read) but I don’t think it is coincidence that Kinsella uses so many Americana inspired images and symbols in the book. The whole story contrasts an apple pie and small town nostalgia with a very uncertain future. The Polo Grounds get torn down. Shoeless Joe is banned from the game he loves. There’s urban blight and crime in the cities that Ray travels through to get to Salinger and the family farm is threatened with extinction and Ray may have to trade in the life he loves to go back to a soulless existence selling life insurance.

    I think in a lot of ways, Shoeless Joe isn’t so much a book about the American dream as a book about how dreamers can approach the dream. Look at Eddie Scissons. His dream of playing major league baseball was a lie but took the “word of baseball” into his heart until the dream sort of became a reality. In a lot of ways, Eddie with his baseball boys and his Chicago Cubs uniform, is a modern day Gatsby, staking a claim to his version of the American Dream in any way – legitimate or not – he can.

    Then there’s Moonlight Graham. As a baseball player, he only had a brush with glory, and that could have made him angry and bitter, but Dr. Graham accepts things for what they are and is able to find a new American Dream to embrace. I mean, the man is practically something out of a Norman Rockwell painting and represents in a purer, nobler way than any other character what American could and should be.

    Ray himself is a dreamer, believing in the magic of baseball and the preciousness of family, home, and land. His tenaciousness and refusal to give up, despite the fact that he will almost certainly lose is yet another part of the American dream. But when you look at Richard, you see what Ray would be if he didn’t have his connections to the land, to his home and his history.

    Richard cannot see the magic of the baseball field because he is cynical and untethered and he has to learn to see. It doesn’t come naturally but it is worth the effort. Bluestein and Mark won’t even attempt to make the effort to see and therefore miss out completely on the dream and their lives are more hollow for it.

    But for Ray, the dream literally saves him. And for Shoeless Joe and the Black Sox, Eddie Scissons, and J.D. Salinger, the dream can rejuvenate, renew, and redeem you.

    I think, in the end, the American Dream is not perfect. It never was and it never will be. Sometimes, like Gatsby with the green light or Moonlight Graham with his one inning of major league ball, we can grasp it for a moment but it’s the dream that is important – not the achievement of it and the act of dreaming – if done in good faith and with a pure heart – can save both the dreamer and the dream.

  2. I agree with a lot of your points Kerry.
    I think that what Kinsella is trying to do with all the American dream imagery is show that even though in today’s world it feels like the dream is slipping away, that it in fact is still here we just have to believe in it and maybe we cant all get everything we wanted but we should still have faith in it and strive for it.
    I think that the reason the dream is so rose colored in the book is because there is enough out there to tear down our dreams its nice to have a book that says, “Go for it. Don’t let all the obstacles get in the way.” I totally agree that an imperfect dream is so much better then no dream at all.

    • I certainly agree that there is a lot of negativity to balance out now a days and I think that Shoeless Joe does a good job of that – both with its timeless Americana and the fact that it does end with the past and the future working itself out, even if in a way we don’t always understand and can’t control.

  3. I thought it was a good point. Eddie does try to make his own American Dream sadly unlike gatsby it’s much harder to make up a baseball career when so many records are kept about that then in gatsby’s case.

    • Even without the records, Gatsby doesn’t get away with his attempt to get the American Dream but what is truly great about Gatsby (and Eddie) is that they dream so fiercely and so brightly for a time.

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