The Jungle

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Marija Berczynskas Character Analysis

Marija is Ona's strong, stubborn cousin who comes to America to seek work with the family. At first, Marija is unafraid to fight for her rights, and even loses her job in a cannery after standing up to an unscrupulous boss that tries to cheat her of her wages. However, financial hardship forces Marija to become a prostitute to support the family, and she becomes trapped by drug addiction and exploitative brothel owners. Her transformation from a strong-willed fighter into a cynical morphine addict symbolizes the way an unforgiving capitalist system erodes the immigrant spirit.

Marija Berczynskas Quotes in The Jungle

The The Jungle quotes below are all either spoken by Marija Berczynskas or refer to Marija Berczynskas. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Jungle published in 2001.
Chapter 6 Quotes

As in a flash of lightning they saw themselves—victims of a relentless fate, cornered, trapped, in the grip of destruction.

Related Characters: Jurgis Rudkus, Ona Lukoszaite, Marija Berczynskas, Teta Elzbieta Lukoszaite
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Jurgis and Ona's dreams come crashing down on them. They've come to American with the naive confidence that their determination and confidence will lead them to success. Here, they realize that the opposite is true: their confidence has blinded them to the realities of their new life, and no amount of willpower can change their "fate." People have cheated them and driven them into horrible debt, and neither one of them is likely to get a good job now.

The passage is especially horrifying because Ona and Jurgis came to America precisely to avoid events like the ones they've just faced. They came to America to get a "clean slate." Now that they're in America, deep in debt, they know of nowhere they can go--they're stuck here for life.

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Chapter 14 Quotes

With one member trimming beef in a cannery, and another working in a sausage factory, the family had a first-hand knowledge of the great majority of Packingtown swindles. For it was the custom, as they found, whenever meat was so spoiled that it could not be used for anything else, either to can it or else to chop it up into sausage. With what had been told them by Jonas, who had worked in the pickle rooms, they could now study the whole of the spoiled-meat industry on the inside, and read a new and grim meaning into that old Packingtown jest—that they use everything of the pig except the squeal.

Related Characters: Jurgis Rudkus, Ona Lukoszaite, Marija Berczynskas, Teta Elzbieta Lukoszaite, Jonas
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

By this point in the novel, Jurgis's family is working in a variety of different industries, all concerned with processing or selling meat in some way. Because they work in different meatpacking capacities, the family is able to see how disgusting most meat sold to the public really is: how unsanitary the factories are, and how much disease is spread by the dirtiness of the plants.

The passage reinforces the family's disillusionment with America and American industry. At first, Jurgis was amused when the factory owners told him that their facilities used every part of the pig except the squeal. As we now realize, the factory's boast is true--because businessmen are so devoted to efficiency, they sacrifice all morality and hygiene. What initially seemed like a good policy for a factory turns out to be a subtle admission of its disgusting, slave-like conditions.

Chapter 15 Quotes

It was all—it was their plot—Miss Henderson's plot. She hated me. And [Phil Connor]—he wanted me. He used to speak to me—out on the platform. Then he began to—to make love to me. He offered me money. He begged me—he said he loved me. Then he threatened me. He knew all about us, he knew we would starve. He knew your boss—he knew Marija's. He would hound us to death, he said—then he said if I would—if I —we would all of us be sure of work—always. Then one day he caught hold of me—he would not let go—he—he—

Related Characters: Ona Lukoszaite (speaker), Jurgis Rudkus, Ona Lukoszaite, Marija Berczynskas, Phil Connor, Miss Henderson
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jurgis learns some unpleasant truths about his family. His wife, Ona, has been sleeping with her boss, Phil Connor, a powerful businessman. Connor knows that Ona is married, but he forces her to spend time with him by claiming that he can ensure that Ona's entire family will remain employed, and threatening to have them all fired if she rejects him. Connor is extremely abusive to Ona, but she feels that she has no choice: she'll take care of her family by any means necessary, even it means betraying her husband and sacrificing her own bodily autonomy and dignity.

The passage illustrates the full extent of the immigrants' misery. The factory owns the workers' labor, 16 hours a day. For women like Ona, businessmen like Connor control their sexuality, too. Terrified of poverty, people like Ona are forced to bargain with their bodies--they know of no other way to survive.

Chapter 16 Quotes

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? That was their law, that was their justice!

Related Characters: Jurgis Rudkus, Ona Lukoszaite, Marija Berczynskas, Teta Elzbieta Lukoszaite, Antanas Rudkus
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

Jurgis is thrown in jail for beating up Phil Connor, the businessman who's been abusing his wife in return for keeping the family employed. Jurgis is furious when he realizes that, all things considered, jail isn't such a bad place to be: he's warm and dry, and he gets food and water. Jurgis wonders why his wife and children haven't been sent to jail in his place--surely such an arrangement would be more "just" than their current situation.

The passage underscores the social injustices of Jurgis's world. On the surface of things, it's the "right" thing to send Jurgis to jail for violence. And yet courts can only go so far in enforcing justice: the lawmen who send Jurgis to jail know nothing of his starving wife, Connor's corruption, etc. Society's idea of justice is, it must be said, unjust.

Chapter 27 Quotes

"When people are starving," the other continued, "and they have anything with a price, they ought to sell it, I say. I guess you realize it now when it's too late. Ona could have taken care of us all, in the beginning." Marija spoke without emotion, as one who had come to regard things from the business point of view.

Related Characters: Marija Berczynskas (speaker), Ona Lukoszaite
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Jurgis reunites with his cousin-in-law, Marija. Marija is working as a prostitute, and seems to no longer feel any moral qualms about doing so: her philosophy is survive by any means necessary, or die. Marija adds that Jurgis "overreacted" in beating up Phil Connors for abusing his wife--he should have swallowed his pride and allowed Ona to continue having sex with Phil, so that the family could survive, thanks to Phil's influence.

Marija is advocating for horrible things, but her words only come from a place of total despair and dehumanization--she speaks "without emotion," as someone totally broken by a system of power, corruption, and abuse. She has sold the last thing she had--her very body--and so sees any other choice as a kind of luxury.

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Marija Berczynskas Character Timeline in The Jungle

The timeline below shows where the character Marija Berczynskas appears in The Jungle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...all ages, from babies to the elderly, fill the room, and Ona's loud, forceful cousin Marija presides over the festivities. (full context)
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
The party goes late into the night and the remaining guests become drunk and exhausted. Marija refuses to let the party end, and so they continue till 3 in the morning,... (full context)
Chapter 2
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...Ona, and Jonas, embark for America with Jurgis's father, Ona's stepmother, Teta Elzbieta, Ona's cousin, Marija, and six children. (full context)
Chapter 4
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...entrails on the "killing beds" where cattle are slaughtered. Jonas has had several interviews and Marija gets a job painting cans in the canning factory, which she is very excited about.... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...flat. They calculate that with their small savings and the wages of Jurgis, Jonas and Marija, they will be able to afford a home. (full context)
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
Marija, Ona, and Teta Elzbieta go to inquire about the houses for sale. The agent tricks... (full context)
Chapter 5
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
Marija sees an advertisement that offers home furnishings on an installment plan, and the family decides... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
Marija and Jonas also make disturbing discoveries. Marija finds out that she is replacing an Irishwoman... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Tamoszius Kuszeika, the frail fiddle player from the wedding feast, and Marija fall in love. Tamoszius courts her, playing fiddle in the kitchen and taking her to... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
Labor Rights and Socialism Theme Icon
After the canning factory shuts down, Marija goes to a union meeting and causes an uproar by delivering an impassioned speech in... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
...meat sold in other countries, making it fine to sell diseased meat within the country. Marija tells Jurgis about the grisly practices in the canning plant, in which diseased animals, covered... (full context)
Chapter 10
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
Labor Rights and Socialism Theme Icon
Marija loses her job in the canning factory because she is headstrong and complains to the... (full context)
Chapter 11
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
Marija invests her money in a bank and joins a run on the bank. She misses... (full context)
Chapter 17
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...to tell him that Ona is sick, the family is starving and facing eviction, and Marija's hand may require amputation after a cut became infected. Stanislovas was fired by his boss,... (full context)
Chapter 18
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...to hear Ona in agony—she is in the throes of premature childbirth. Over Ona's screaming, Marija somberly explains that a doctor or midwife would cost tens of dollars—much more than the... (full context)
Chapter 27
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...for herself, but has no money on her—instead, she tells Jurgis where he can find Marija. (full context)
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
As soon as Jurgis reaches Marija's building, it is raided by police. After seeing scantily-clad women and embarrassed men clamor past... (full context)
Chapter 28
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...police, his criminal past is undiscovered, and the judge lets him off with a warning. Marija receives a fine, which is paid by the brothel's proprietress. He goes back to the... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
Marija explains the brothel's extortive arrangements: although her earnings are decent, she is charged outrageous prices... (full context)
Chapter 31
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
Labor Rights and Socialism Theme Icon
...as Jurgis gets his job with Hinds, he goes back to the brothel to convince Marija to abandon prostitution. Marija sees no point in leaving: her drug addiction and tarnished past... (full context)