It is very imprudent, it is tragic – but, ah, it is so beautiful! Bit by bit these poor people have given up everything else; but to this they cling with all the power of their souls – they cannot give up the veselija! To do that would mean, not merely to be defeated, but to acknowledge defeat – and the difference between these two things is what keeps the world going. The veselija has come down to them from a far-off time; and the meaning of it was that one might dwell within the cave and gaze upon shadows, provided only that once in his lifetime he could break his chains, and feel his wings, and behold the sun; provided that once in his lifetime he might testify to the fact that life, with all its cares and its terrors, is no such great thing after all, but merely a bubble upon the surface of a river, a thing that one may toss about and play with as a juggler tosses his golden balls, a thing that one may quaff, like a goblet of rare red wine. Thus having known himself for the master of things, a man could go back to his toil and live upon the memory all his days. (1.27)
Even though the veselija – the traditional Lithuanian wedding feast – winds up being a financial disaster for Jurgis and his family, they still hold one anyway. They do so largely because Teta Elzbieta insists, because she wants to keep their traditional celebrations alive. The purpose of this celebration, according to Sinclair, is to give poor people one brief, flickering joyful moment to look forward to so that all their lives, they can keep suffering and working hard without minding so much. Traditional rituals are just another way to help people put up with the injustices of the system. Do you agree with this analysis? What social purpose do you think celebrations like the veselija might have?