Chapter 8 Summary

Marija becomes the target of the affections of Tamoszius Kuszleika, the petite violinist at Jurgis and Ona’s wedding feast. They are complete opposites in size—Marija is a rather hefty young lady as well as being loud, aggressive, and boisterous. However, Tamoszius has a way of looking at Marija that starts her blushing. Tamoszius plays frequently at weddings and celebrations. He asks Marija to accompany him and is overwhelmed when she says yes. Thereafter, Marija always goes with him when he plays, and she returns home with her pockets full of sandwiches and cakes for the children. If friends of Tamoszius are hosting the celebration, he invites the entire family. He is exceptionally jealous, however, and gets upset if Marija dances with another single man. These events provide some relaxation and cheer for the family, who spend the rest of their time in cold, hard labor. Tamoszius gets up enough courage to ask Marija to marry him, and she accepts willingly; they plan for a spring wedding.

Marija’s happiness is brought to an abrupt halt, however, when the canning factory in which she works shuts down. With little warning, the workers are told that the factory will be closed for at least a month. Marija never thought of the factory closing, and she learns that only a few of the workers will resume work when it reopens. The men in the warehouse are also laid off, which means that there are no orders coming in. Never one to accept idleness, Marija searches for days to find another job, but nearly all the factories are closing—so all the other workers are looking for positions as well. Marija, who had joined a union ten days before the canning factory closed, attends union meetings and shouts out her disapproval of the unfairness of it all. She does not know English, and no one understands her.

Jurgis also suffers from the seasonal decrease. Although the workers are still expected to show up at seven o’clock in the morning, there may be no work for them until late in the afternoon. Jurgis is lucky to get a couple of hours of work each day. Even then he is often shorted wages because partial hours are not paid. Jurgis also changes his mind about unions. He attends the meetings, even when he is cornered by a drunken Irishman. He is interested in the rights of workers and remembers when he laughed at those who questioned the fairness of the factory owners. He sees now that there is strength only in union.