The Grapes of Wrath


Ma Joad

Ma Joad is the powerful figure at the core of the Joad family: pragmatic, hard-working, and devoted to keeping the family together. She is not, however, sentimental or tearful; in fact, her style of practical wisdom often leads her to achieve her goals by deliberately arousing her husband’s anger or by threatening people with violence.  She endures terrible hardship with stoicism, always keeping her mind on the greater good of the family. After Ma sits next to the deceased Granma on top of the truck all night without sharing her grief, Casy says of her, “there’s a woman so great with love—she scares me.” Ma’s capacity for love and her determination to endure never falter throughout the novel, even as the family gradually disperses and falls upon unimaginable hardship. Her unspoken understanding with Rose of Sharon at the end of the novel exemplifies her belief that the collective of humanity is more important than the individual, and that individual acts of courage and sharing strengthen all of us. In her unwavering courage and perseverance, Ma Joad represents the enduring nature of the migrant people.  

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