The Jungle Chapter 6
Jurgis and Ona are thinking about marrying, but they cannot pay for a traditional wedding feast which the older folks insist upon. Ona suggests getting a job but Jurgis will not hear of it. As they are getting settled in their new house, they meet a Lithuanian woman and her grown son who live a block away-the Majauzskienes. Grandmother Majauzskiene proceeds to tell the family horror stories about the house they live in. The house is not new, as the agent has told them, but is over fifteen years old. Grandmother Majauzskiene has watched four families live in the house, and get evicted from that house for nonpayment. That's the scheme, she tells them, to swindle the poor. Grandmother Majauzskiene believes that the influx of immigrants, in waves of German, Irish, Bohemian, Polish and Lithuanian respectively, is the work of Durham. Yes, the wages are higher, but the immigrants don't discover that the cost of living is also high, until it's too late to turn back. Then, she says, they are like rats in a trap.
She also tells them about the recently passed labor laws, barring children under 16 from working, and how families simply produce false papers to get their children into the factories. They must have the extra money to survive. "And, for this, at the end of the week, he will carry home three dollars to his family, being his pay at the rate of five cents per hour-just about his proper share of the million and three quarters of children who are now engaged in earning their livings in the United States." Chapter 6, pg. 85
Grandmother Majauzskiene is a Socialist, though Jurgis does not know what the word means.
Grandma Majauzskiene then tells them something that breaks their hearts-that they'd have to pay interest on the house payments as well. It is more than half of their monthly payment. It's a terrible blow to the family and they go back home to decide how to compensate for the extra costs. Ona must work, and little Stanislovas, one of Elzbieta's children, must acquire false papers (he is only 13) and work as well. Ona gets a job wrapping and sewing hams. She parts with ten dollars for the job. Stanislovas, after obtaining false papers that make him sixteen years old, gets a job setting empty lard cans under a lard spout. He makes five cents an hour. With Ona and Stanislovas' wages, the family could make the payment and the interest and have just a little left over to save for the wedding feast.