At the beginning of The Jungle, Marija serves almost as a female Jurgis. She is concerned not only with the traditional Lithuanian customs but also the manner in which the customs are carried out. Like Jurgis, in the beginning she has faith in hard work and believes individuals can achieve success and prosperity through their own efforts. Like Jurgis, she is enthusiastic about the union, until she learns that the union is powerless against the Beef Trust. She, like Jurgis, suffers a physical injury on the job, and this limits her subsequent employment opportunities. Unlike Jurgis, she eventually succumbs to the pressures of her economic situation, defeated.
The degree to which Marija is similar to Jurgis is the degree to which she initially appears to be different from other women. Early on she is strong and makes a good wage, but that changes. The first sign of change is her inability to have her own wedding, especially after seeing to the details of Jurgis and Ona's: Fate forces her to remain alone. Her entire relationship with Tamoszius illustrates the effects of an industrialized society on love relationships. Because of financial problems, love is unable to prosper.
Losing her love relationship, combined with her physical injury, eventually leads to Marija's spiritual death. Early on, she is a pillar of strength, forcing people to dance when they are tired, speaking out against horrible conditions, and enduring job after job in order to make money. Early on, she believes in hard work and its results. By the end of The Jungle, she has no strength left and accepts her fate as a prostitute as inevitable.
Her acceptance of prostitution, even stating that Ona could have saved the family, reveals the depths to which she sinks. Her willingness to remain a whore addicted to morphine shows that, more than any other character in The Jungle, Marija suffers as a result of the capitalistic system at work.
Early on, Marija is a foil for Ona. Marija is an extremely active woman, whereas Ona is quite passive. At the same time, Marija is an ironic foil for Jurgis. In an age of male dominance, she is exceeding him in her success. In the end of the novel, however, Jurgis has the positive metamorphosis. It is as if she embraces the role of the victim and allows the forces of nature to defeat her entirely — body and soul. Her fate is the embodiment of the naturalistic woman.