Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 8

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Chapter 8

  • Tamoszius Kuszleika begins to fall in love with Marija Berczynskas.
  • It seems to be a case of opposites attracting: Tamoszius is a tiny guy and Marija is hail and hearty.
  • Tamoszius's fiddle can make Marija blush and bring Teta Elzbieta to tears.
  • But Tamoszius's skill also has material benefits for Marija, because he brings her to all of the parties he's hired to play at.
  • She has a wonderful time going out like this, and she brings back stories for the family to enjoy.
  • One Saturday night, coming back from one of these parties, Tamoszius gets down on one knee and proposes to Marija.
  • She is absolutely thrilled, and the two spend as much time in each other's company as they can.
  • They plan to get married in the spring, and to fix up the attic into an apartment for them to share.
  • Marija is so excited, right up until the minute when disaster strikes: her canning factory is shut down and won't reopen again for at least a month.
  • Marija goes back out on the job market, but since all of the canning factories seem to have shut down for the post-holiday slump, she doesn't find anything.
  • So, she tries shops, bars, and, finally, she looks for work as a servant to rich families on the lake front.
  • The meatpacking factories don't close, but they offer shorter and shorter working hours during the winter.
  • This means Jurgis is bringing in less and less money, even though he's still working hard.
  • There is usually a rush at the end of the day when they have to work double-time to process all of the cattle that have come in during the day.
  • Jurgis sometimes has to stay on as late as midnight or 1:00 AM.
  • The worst thing of all is that the companies do not pay all of Jurgis's working hours.
  • If a worker is even a minute late, he will not be paid for that hour he works.
  • Still, a worker also gets no extra pay if he comes in early. And, even worse, he gets no pay for "broken time": if he works any part of an hour, but not a whole hour, at the end of the day, he gets nothing for it. Even if he puts in nine hours and fifty-nine minutes, he only gets paid for nine hours.
  • This means that there is a constant struggle between the bosses, who try to finish everything quickly, and the workers, who try to stretch it out so they get paid for all of their time.
  • Jurgis has gotten frustrated enough with these poor labor practices that he is now interested in joining a union. (For more on unions in the United States, check out our History of Labor Unions Learning Guide.)
  • Everyone in the family soon becomes card-carrying members of a union.
  • They all think that belonging to a union will save them from their troubles.
  • Yet belonging to a union doesn't stop Marija's canning factory from closing down.
  • So, she stands up at the next union meeting and complains.
  • Since she gives her speech in Lithuanian, though, no one understands her.
  • The first day that Jurgis goes to a union meeting, he also has a weird experience.
  • He's sitting in a corner trying to go unnoticed when suddenly, a crazy guy named Tommy Finnegan approaches him and starts talking quickly (and totally incoherently) in thickly accented English.
  • One of his fellow union members eventually rescues Jurgis, but not before he decides never to let Tommy Finnegan corner him again.
  • Despite this embarrassing beginning, Jurgis decides never to miss a union meeting.
  • Jurgis becomes a complete union convert, and resolves to spend his time recruiting other Lithuanians to the cause.

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