Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Dorothy Day’s “road to Rome” was far from straight and narrow. The Long Loneliness is an autobiographical account of the spiritual odyssey that brought her to Catholicism and to cofound the Catholic Worker movement. A writer by profession, she produced a book that reflects her expertise in conveying her feelings and beliefs to the average reader while at the same time satisfying the demands of the scholar. Her earlier autobiography, From Union Square to Rome (1938), was criticized by such diverse publications as Catholic World and The New Republic for its vagueness and its lack of an orderly presentation of her thought. The Long Loneliness remedies those defects.

Aside from the four-page introduction titled “Confession,” the book is divided into three parts, each corresponding to a different phase of her life. Part 1, “Searching,” begins with her birth and ends at an undefined point in the 1920’s. The touchstones used to measure the state of her life during these early years, as with all of her life, are religion and her response to it. While religion was given scant attention in her home, she appears to have been a born mystic. From her earliest recollections, even the mention of God or the sight of someone at prayer affected her deeply. From childhood into her late teens, she cultivated a deep spirituality. A professor at the University of Illinois, however, convinced her that religion was but a crutch for the weak while she was one of the strong. Radical politics and journalism were substituted for religion. While these would always constitute essential elements of her life, they proved to be inadequate unless combined with a spiritual component. Her faith was, in time, revived, and a new Dorothy Day was in the making.

Part 2, “Natural Happiness,” appears to be a continuation of part...

(The entire section is 765 words.)