Dorothy Day had a curious personality and a very imaginative mind. When she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she wrote in her biography The Long Loneliness, "my reading began to be socially conscious" (Day 36). It was around this time that she began to read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Sinclair was a socialist whom Day most likely would have strongly related to. Day was a part of the Christian Socialist Movement and sympathized with a lot of Sinclair's ideals. At the time she was introduced to The Jungle, Dorothy Day lived in Chicago with her family. Coindentally, The Jungle was set in Chicago, and so Day could further relate to the realities depicted in the novel.
The Jungle dealt with the cruel and shocking truths behind the meat packing and processing business. Day was captivated by the stories of its characters. She was also largely responsible for taking care of her brother, John, as the family expected it of her. In her earlier years, Day would walk with John through the Park to relax and appreciate nature, but as she began to read Sinclair's work, she shifted the strolling routes to the poor district on the West Side of Chicago. While she walked through the district, she would often imagine Sinclair's work in motion, as she let fiction become reality.
Day's curious nature made her want to see first-hand the conditions of life for those who were poor. She adventured through the poor district and looked into the houses and looked into the people, both containing very depressing things inside them. Day did this a lot, and as she did it she would imagine the characters in The Jungle, and imagined their existence in this very alive and very real neighborhood. It would become her childhood that she would fondly look back upon. It would be the kindling that started the fire for her passion and motivation for supporting her ideals and those who share it.
Day reminisced, "I envisaged such scenes as that of the Polish wedding part in Sinclair's story, past houses which were sunk down a whole story below street level" (Day 37). In this, Sinclair formed the very beginnings of the Day we know today. Day continues, "and though my only experience with the destitute was in books, the very fact that The Jungle was about Chicago where I lived, whose streets I walked, made me that from then on my life was to be linked with theirs" (Day 38). It was her first experiences with the poor. Her first face-to-face encounters with the reality of what she had been reading. This had made everything feel more personal to Day, making the significance of Sinclair and similar writers hold a prominent role in the forming of Day's character, and consequently in forming her actions.
For example, not shortly thereafter does Day write in her autobiography, "I wanted everyone to be kind" in response to seeing the good of the Salvation Army and the condition of the poor (Day 39). She then recalls all the "abundance" of good that...