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Dorothy Day, Research Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1691

Research Paper

Dorothy Day was a committed American pacifist. Her adult life was sacrificed to give and help others in need. Her book “The Long Loneliness” was her autobiography which discusses her catholic social activist actions. She was greatly influenced by books and began reading at the age of four. Throughout her life she has read and been influences by hundreds of different books. She loved reading about the poor and their real worth, not like the low-class that they were often treated as. Her own personal life allowed her to experience the downside of poverty. Her father was terminated from his job causing the family to relocate to Chicago. During the transition he was not able to find work quickly and during that period of time Day experienced what it was like to live in poverty. Dorothy Day was first influences as a teenager by Upton Sinclair who wrote “The Jungle”. Sinclair worked with labors and unions and spent his whole life working and this influenced Day and her desire to work on the catholic worker moment. Sinclair was determined to changing society, and dedicated his life to be an energetic socialist. This was the beginning for Day and her pursuit to help others. “The Jungle” paved the way for Day’s social activist actions and influenced her to create the catholic workers movement.

During Dorothy’s life and her passion to be a social activist, she made many sacrifices. Perhaps the most important movement that Day has ever done was creating the Catholic workers movement. She voluntarily lived in poverty to help others in need. Day protested war and fought for peace and amicability. She also supported labor strikes and supported equality for all employees regardless of their level. Day reflected on poverty, destitution, sickness, and sin. During her missions she created housing, healthcare, and education to individuals who may have never had an opportunity to otherwise. Sinclair himself was dedicated to labor and unions, and it was clearly depicted in his book. His social actions were a big contribution to Days influence to create the Catholic worker movement.

“The Jungle” uncovered the realities of what takes place in the meat processing and packing business. The book was written based on the events in Chicago which sparked Days interest because it was based in the city that she resided. In fact she would change her destination from the park to venture to the poor areas to witness the different life on the West Side. As Day read the book she was able to picture the events that were being explained. “The very fact that The Jungle was about Chicago where I lived, whose streets I walked made me feel that from then on my life was to be linked to theirs, their interests were to be mine.” In effect, reading works of fiction and later, essays on poverty and the necessity of respond to the problems that poverty presented” was how Day found her calling to be a social activist. (Day)

Sinclair’s book began with a Lithuanian marriage feast and day imagined how great of an opportunity that would have been to experience. He painted an image of a feast with everyone celebrating and an endless amount of food available. This was not something that Day was familiar with thus far in her life. It was referred to as the highlight of their existence, an escape from the inhumane work environment and often that in which they are forced to live as well. Day walked the neighborhood and imagined what each family was going through. She was compassionate and concerned, her imagination allowed her to see a much clearer picture of these people’s lives. As a teenager she realize that “the joy of doing good, of sharing whatever we had with others after the earthquake, an event which threw us out of our complacent happiness into a world of catastrophe.” (Day) The hardship and heartache of people in need continued to influence her social activist desires.

Day associated with the immigrant and poor individuals that Sinclair talked about in his book. As she read it was as if she could feel their pain and sorrow, she understood their pain and suffering. She herself was once poor and wanting for food and shelter. Her father being a displaced newspaper writer had a hard time finding work. Day’s family not so long ago had no choice but to live like the immigrants and the poor people the Sinclair wrote about. The immigrants were often exploited by the Chicago meat packing plants. “Here was a population, low-class and mostly foreign, hanging always on the verge of starvation, and dependent for its opportunities of life upon the whim of men every bit as brutal and unscrupulous as the old-time slave drivers; under such circumstances immorality was exactly as inevitable, and as prevalent, as it was under the system of chattel slavery. Things that were quite unspeakable went on there in the packing houses all the time, and were taken for granted by everybody; only they did not show, as in the old slavery times, because there was no difference in color between master and slave.” (Sinclair) The inhumane conditions of these plants offered the immigrants who were lined up outside looking for work a chance to make money. Standing in blood, stench, and filth, but none the less it was a job. Inevitably the workers would fall ill or face injury and at that point they would have to face the risk of losing income and even potentially their jobs.

Another trial that Jurgis had to face was his incarceration. Day was clearly able to see through this book how hard it was for him and what little care there was for his family or the situation they would be left in. “They put him in a place where the snow could not beat in, where the cold could not eat through his bones; they brought him food and drink—why, in the name of heaven, if they must punish him, did they not put his family in jail and leave him outside—why could they find no better way to punish him than to leave three weak women and six helpless children to starve and freeze?” (Sinclair) Society failed to protect the innocent in this situation. He was provided a place to live and food on the table while all that was taken away from his family. At her young age Dorothy was still affected by this. “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” (Day) Day sees that love is the solution, and loving others whether that is family, friends, or the community will ensure every ones overall well-being. Knowing the struggles that Jurgis faced and the hardship his helpless family went through Day continued search for a way to make a difference again paving the way for her to become a social activist.

“To Jurgis the packers had been equivalent to fate; Ostrinski showed him that they were the Beef Trust. They were a gigantic combination of capital, which had crushed all opposition, and overthrown the laws of the land, and was preying upon the people.” (Sinclair) Jurgis’ believes that it was socialism that literally saved his life. The personal trials were overwhelming and the depressions were headed to personal destruction. Socialism was his new community; it was his support and reason for living. Sinclair wrote that socialism was the salvation for the poor to keep them from isolation, desolation, and despair. Dorothy took Sinclair’s writing very serious and learned from this and other books. The fact that Sinclair clearly stated his belief in socialism and the difference it made in mankind was a big spark for Dorothy to move forward with her own social activist journey as well. It provided a way for her too to make a difference for others in need.

Dorothy learned as much as she can by seeing the life described by Sinclair. “The very fact that The Jungle was about Chicago where I lived, whose streets I walked” was the back drop for Day’s catholic social activist movement. (Day) Her own struggles of poverty and the embarrassment associated with that opened her eyes early on to be able to understand this book on a greater level. This book was talking about the city which she lived, neighborhoods in which she traveled, and people she potentially crossed paths with. If this book addressed the corruption and overall inhumanity that was taking place in California it may not have guided Dorothy in the same capacity or magnitude that this book did. Things hit much closer to home when they are taking place in your back yard. The description and visual that Day got when reading this book also played a big role in the amount of influence it had over her. All factors considered this book could be considered the reason for Day committing to her activism role that she chose to pursue.

“The Jungle” paved the way for Day’s social activist actions and influenced her autobiography as well. When Day started her socialism, she was not strong in her Catholic beliefs yet so human kindness and well-being was the guiding force. Upton Sinclair was able to reach Dorothy in her teenage year and greatly influenced her life-long commitment and sacrifice to help others. What she was unable to see on the streets of Chicago she was able to imagine and it hit her heart on a deeper level than most people. Her dedication and determination was revealed clearly in her autobiography and it showed a person who was genuinely concerned with the overall betterment of society. “Day’s imagination grew incrementally as she devoured the works of fiction that were available at home.” (Day) She visualized the change she could make by choosing to help, by choosing to give. Many books played a role in Dorothy Day’s life, but one of the most important influences was what she learned from Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”.

References:

Day, Dorothy. “The Long Loneliness: An Autobiography of Dorothy Day” New York: Harper, 1952. Print.

Sinclair, Upton. “The Jungle” Sharp Press, 2003. Print.

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