Marija Berczynskas is Ona’s cousin, and although she is the strongest woman in the family upon their arrival to America, the harsh realities of life in Packingtown destroy her spirit just like everyone else. The combination of her physical fitness and bold attitude make her a force to be reckoned with early in the novel, so much so that she decides to immigrate with her family after fighting back against her cruel employer in Lithuania. In many ways, Marija functions as a female parallel to Jurgis. Both arrive in Chicago with a determination to support the family and do not rest until they have what they are after. The first job that Marija secures involves painting cans, and because of the skill required to complete such a task, she is able to make a decent wage. She takes great pride in this position, especially since it allows her to support the family as Jurgis does. 

Marija’s work ethic, however, is not enough ensure that she keeps her job, and she quickly falls on hard times. Not only does the cannery unexpectedly close for a period of time, but her boss cheats her out of her full pay when they reopen. Her determination drives her to demand answers from the forelady and the superintendent, believing that they are punishing her for getting involved in the workers’ union. Witnessing and suffering from this corruption firsthand causes Marija to lose faith in the promises of America, and although she takes up a new job as a beef trimmer, she quits the union and falls into despair. Much like Jurgis, she becomes injured on the job and is unable to create a meaningful life with the man she loves as a result of her fall into poverty. Marija ultimately becomes a drug-addicted prostitute in order to continue supporting her family after Jurgis leaves them. Her once-bold spirit all but vanishes by the novel’s end, and this transformation emphasizes the idea that capitalism’s brutal nature can have just as drastic an effect on women as it can have on men.