In Steinbeck's, The Grapes of Wrath, Ma Joad is an extremely strong individual who guides the Joad family through their troubled times. She is known to be one of the strongest individuals in American literature, and Steinbeck demonstrates her strength in many different instances. One instance is when her son Tom leaves the family after violating his probation. Ma is also depicted as a microcosm of what is happening to all of the other wives during the depression and how they could ideally deal with their struggles. The endeavors that the Joads had to tolerate when they were kicked off their own land, were the same inconveniences that the rest of the "Okies"ÃÂ had to deal with during their own time of tragedy. Probably Ma Joads best quality would have to be her high morals, regardless of any circumstance. A perfect example of her high morals coming into play, was when Grandpa had to be buried on the side of road because that was the party's only option at the time.
Ma handled the situation professionally because of her strong morals. Ma, through her continuous guidance, was the sole reason why the Joad family stayed together as long as they did.
For Ma Joad, maintaining her level of strength must have been continuously challenged. The first and probably most difficult challenge came right from her own husband whom she obviously loved dearly. Pa Joad was a weak man, and Ma couldn't let Pa rub off on her during their time of change. The rest of the Joad party demonstrated their weakness too, but that didn't even phase Ma from maintaining her own strength. Ma needed strength all along to guide the Joad party in the right direction no matter what kind of events might have happen. When Tom left, another burden was placed upon the Joad family, especially for Ma because Tom was her own son. Ma, because of her strength, overcame her own despair and kept the spirits of others as high as they could be while yet another difficult reality came into play in the life of the Joads.
Struggles during the dust bowl occurred in all of these "Okie"ÃÂ families. Not only the Joads, but also many other families had to pack their bags and go start a new life out West. Steinbeck takes the events that happened, and through Ma Joad, presents to the reader the ideal way for an "Okie wife"ÃÂ to tolerate such burdens; anywhere from dealing with the family to dealing with the law. Even though the people were illiterate, they have elemental fears and hopes that needed to be addressed. Through the whole time of hardship for the "Okies"ÃÂ, more and more people developed the idea that, "I becomes we"ÃÂ. Ma Joad's family obtained a greater appreciation for the "I becomes we"ÃÂ idea, as time went on, because of the encouragement that everyone got from Ma. That encouragement being; getting everyone to work together for the betterment of the family.
Ma Joads high morals were a major reason why she is highly respected by her peers. She was always pictured as a loving and caring individual because of her high morals. An example being when Ma, because she knew that there was only one type of burial possible at the given time, wanted to make Grandpa's burial as pleasant and as official as possible. She had Jim Casy say a prayer for Grandpa, and Grandpa was buried with a note explaining what had happened. At that certain time, that was the most appropriate procedure to take and Ma influenced that good decision because of her moral standards. Ma's high morals were also very apparent throughout the novel because one would never read of Ma complaining. One way that Ma taught was through example; time showed that teaching through example was the most effective way of teaching.
The characteristics mentioned of Ma Joad have a great deal of importance to the novel. Ma could be pictured as the "citadel of the family"ÃÂ, and if it weren't for Ma Joad's love and perseverance throughout the novel, the Joad family wouldn't even have made it half as far as they did. The Joads (especially Ma) were all-around good people. Through the evil of naturalism, the Joads were tortured and tormented for entirely too long. The Grapes of Wrath could be interpreted as a tragedy for the Joads, with the reason being naturalism.