Grapes of Wrath: Characteristics of Ma Joad
Ma Joad is a strong character. She is always calm no matter how bad the situation is. She is an absolute leader in her family despite all the prejudices of the society, which dictate that a husband should always rule and make decisions. In case of Joad’s family, Pa is less confident and strong in his opinions than Ma.
The life of Ma Joad has never been easy. Despite that fact, she manages to stay cool and prudent even when she loses her house, land, and all the possessions. She is the “citadel of the family” because she never lets herself be weak. She embodies the highest knowledge and understanding of every member of her family. That means that she always tries to support everyone and manage her family right. When Pa feels that he is breaking down, she wakes anger in him in order to keep him alive because without him, the family would be destroyed. She always knows what is best for her close people and never hesitates in making decisions.
However, she cares not only for her family, but also for other people. Ma Joad represents the ideal image of humanity and helpfulness towards all the people who need help. She says: “If you're in trouble or hurt or need – go to poor people. They're the only ones that'll help” (Steinbeck, 1939, p. 376). When the world is cruel, and a person is suffering from poverty, there is no one who can understand him better than another poor person can. Thus, Ma considers these people are the most helpful and sympathetic. That is why her figure is significant for the economic and social conditions of that period. She understands that in the times of crisis and poverty people need to stay together and help each other. She also tries to deliver the thought that the most important value in life is the family. Ma says: “All we got is the family unbroke” (Steinbeck, 1939, p. 217). That is why when they do not have any land or home left, they must protect the unity of their family. Therefore, if they lose this unity, they will lose everything. Ma Joad symbolizes the forces directed against capitalism and, thereby, she is leaning to communistic society where all people are equal.