Was Ray Kinsella a triumphant hero who dared to live his dreams, or merely an insane lunatic who blindly followed voices that could only be heard within the confines of his mind? Although either of these theories could be argued successfully, the idea that this intrepid man was indeed a hero is supported by a list of characteristics that generally indicate a classical hero.
In the movie, Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella was introduced to the viewers as an ordinary man, living an ordinary life, in an ordinary town. Conversely, he was given the extraordinary supernatural ability to revive a number of celebrities from both the world of baseball and literature who had been dead for many years. Kinsella related to common people, but possessed powers that are not only uncommon, but ultimately inhuman.
Although not a fool, Ray Kinsella was also not invincible. For example, he was forced to deal with defeat and hopelessness throughout his travels. Once, he misunderstood a message given to him and journeyed to a place that he was not called to go to. But, being the bright and resourceful person he was, he was not discouraged and continued to persevere.
Ray Kinsella was called upon by forces left unknown to the viewers and himself to go on both a physical journey as well as a journey of the heart. After hearing voices proclaiming, “If you build it, they will come,” Ray risked the economic and emotional stability of the family he loved dearly to build a baseball field. At first, Ray Kinsella was highly skeptical, but eventually he realized the significance of his obscure calling. Upon the completion of the baseball field, “Shoeless Joe Jackson”, the baseball player who had been his father’s hero before he passed away, suddenly appeared in the field to talk with Ray and to play baseball. As the plot progressed, Ray continued to receive messages. After each new message, Ray was called upon to further his journey. This journey involved traveling to various cities around the United States, as well as facing issues within himself that he has successfully hidden from for years.
The reason for his journey, and the path to follow were never clearly manifested to Ray Kinsella. Blind faith and perhaps a bit mythically guided of insanity were all that drove him to continue on his journey. Throughout his journey, Ray never once knew where the next piece to the puzzle was located. Only at the end of his journey was it at last made clear to him the purpose for his quest. Years ago, when Ray was an adolescent, he had a falling out with his father that he never resolved. After the death of his father, John Kinsella, Ray was overcome with a sense of guilt and emptiness due to the fact that the horrible conflict with his father would never be resolved. Completing his journey allowed him to make amends with his deceased father and alleviate himself of the eternal burden of never forgiving his father or being forgiven himself for the painful words they had exchanged. During his journey, Ray faced danger and loneliness as well as temptation. Ray plowed down his corn field, his only source of income, to build the baseball field and placed himself and his family in danger of losing his house and land. This also placed his relationship with his beloved wife and daughter in jeopardy. Loneliness seemed to follow Ray wherever he traveled. He continuously felt that no one, including himself, knew what he was doing or where he was headed. At one point in the story Ray Kinsella was tempted to give up his quest and go back home to Iowa to re-establish economic as well as emotional security. Tenacity prevailed, though, and he was able to conquer these obstacles. Terrence Mann, a famous author from the 1970’s, was provided to Ray as a friend to assist him on his journey. Although, at first, Terrence and Ray did not seem to agree or even get along, as time passed and they came to know each other more thoroughly, they became extremely supportive companions. If not for Mr. Mann, Ray might have given up this unique and rare opportunity to resolve a conflict he would have otherwise been burdened by for the rest of his life.
Ray Kinsella received guidance for his journey through a series of messages sent to him. Although the origin of the messages was never fully revealed, the messages played an extremely important role in the events of the journey. If not for the voice, Ray might never have been aware of this opportunity to settle the distressing differences between his father and himself.
The darkness that Ray descended into was one of confusion as well as hopelessness. During the journey, Ray watched his marriage begin to fall to pieces and his economic stability diminish. He became increasingly uneasy about the purpose for the journey and considered abandoning the quest to return home and resume the life he had left behind. As he witnessed the reaction of others to his calling, he was challenged, as many people throughout history have been, with following his deepest intuition, or conforming to the standards of others. After the purpose of his quest was revealed to him, Ray’s hope was restored and he was instilled with a new sense of faith and wisdom about life. His dissension into and ascension from darkness were key events in his journey that changed the way he looked at both himself and life in general.
What Ray Kinsella was looking for was the reason for the messages being sent to him, but while he continued to seek for the meaning of the messages he found peace within himself. In the beginning, Ray was not consciously aware that the reason for his quest was to find a means by which he could make amends with his father. In the end though, simply by searching for what the mysterious messages meant, he was able to reconcile with his father and come to peace with himself.
Though Ray Kinsella fit the general characteristics that describe a classical hero, he also demonstrated heroism in many other ways. He was honest, noble, caring, compassionate, and humble. It is important not only to judge heroism by a generic list of characteristics, but also to examine the character and intentions of an individual as well.