Chapter 1 Notes from The Jungle

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The Jungle Chapter 1

A wedding feast takes place in the rear-room of a Chicago saloon, in the stockyards district of the city. The feast is for the wedding of Jurgis Rudkus and Ona Lukoszaite. They are Lithuanians who recently immigrated to the United States along with family members. This feast is a Lithuanian tradition called a veselija. Ona is only 16 years old, blue-eyed and fair, and her new husband, Jurgis, is a burly man with black eyes and thick black hair. All of the guests are Lithuanian, and the room is packed with people-including Ona's stepmother Elzbieta, their neighbor Mrs. Majauzskiene (called Grandmother) and Ona's cousin Marija Berczynskas. Marija is a cheerfully overbearing, loud woman. She's short and stocky and works in a canning factory, handling cans of beef that weigh upwards of 14 pounds. Dede Antanas, Jurgis's father, is 60 years old but he looks 80. He's sick and has only been in America for six months. His job at the pickle rooms at Durham's Packing House only aggravates his condition. He was once a scholar, back in Lithuania, who wrote his friends' love notes. Also in attendance at the veselija are Jokubus Sdevilas and his wife Lucija. They keep a delicatessen on Halsted Street. Another guest is Jadvyga Marcinkus, a beauty who paints cans at a packing plant.

The music at this feast plays a vitally important role. The songs inspire visions of home. Tamoszius Kuszleika is the lead fiddler. He taught himself to play by practicing all night after working in the "killing beds" of the slaughterhouses all day. The Acziarimas Ceremony, the highlight of the evening, is a dance that lasts for over three hours. The guests form a ring enclosing the bride, Ona, and men dance with her. When they've has their dance, they donate a bit of money into a hat that Elzbieta holds in her hands. The sum is what the bride and groom live on for their first year, and the way they pay back the unbelievable bills from the feast. But everyone here is very poor, overworked, and sick. They work in cellars with cold water on the floor. They make so little money that they must send their children into the workforce as laborers. But this wedding costs the equivalent of a year's salary in the yards. As the night whiles away, many young men sneak out without paying a gift. How will they pay the bills of this feast? Jurgis and Ona leave around three o'clock. The remaining guests have passed out. However, they are all expected at work at 7 a.m. If they are a minute late, they are docked an hour's pay. If they are several minutes late, they are fired. Ona has asked for a day off, the day after her wedding, but she has been denied. There is no mercy in the yards. When Jurgis and Ona arrive at their apartment, he tells her she won't go to work at Brown's and when she says it will ruin them, he says: "I will work harder."

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