The main character of "The Jungle" is Jurgis. Jurgis is a poor migrant worker that comes to America expecting it to be the land of hope and promise. He expects to earn an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.
Sadly, as often happens, he was quickly disillusioned. He soon learned that things were not much better, and in fact in many cases were worse, than they had been in his native country of Lithuania.
Sinclaire makes excellent use of symbolism in this classis work. Jurgis symbolizes the hopes and dreams of immigrants and low class individuals, his demise is representative of thousands of others like him.
Ona is Jurgis's wife. At the beginning of the story, the have just been married. She is also from Lithuania, where her family was very wealthy. Her father had passed away, and Jurgis brought her family and her to America. She expects to be treated like a queen in America, but instead is forced into a life of labor, drudgery, and cold. It is apparent to her that this famed garden of Eden is actually hell in disguise. Sinclaire uses Ona as a symbol of the sudden loss of innocence that occurs in the evils of our society.
Elzbieta is not a major character in the story. She is Ona's step-mother. In Lithuania, she had married Ona's father when her birth mother had died. She had been quite well of and was used to the finer things in life. She believed in ideas like tradition and honor. She loved the ideals and rituals of Lithuania. She refused to let their lack of money and their change in where they lived affect her values. She worked hard, carefully balanced budgets, even lowered herself to begging on the streets so as not to desgrace the traditions of home with a shoddy wedding or funeral. she faithfully gave money to the church, even though she needed the money more than the needy people she was donating the money for. She would not hear of Jurgis and Ona marrying until they had acquired enough money for a ceremony. Marija never married at Elzbieta's request that she wait until the had money that they never managed to earn. Sinclaire used Elzbieta as a symbols of the immigrants refusal to give up their beliefs at any cost, no matter how silly, because they would not conform to American customs.
Marija is Ona's sister.