In the book Grapes of Wrath, published by John Steinbeck in 1939, a family is forced to move out of their homeland and migrate towards plentiful land. The Dust Bowl posed a great threat not only to this family but all farmers and their loved ones. One important underlying message in the book is the importance of the women in a household. Ma Joad in the story is seen throughout the book as a hero and a mentor.
First off, she is very welcoming, through allowing strangers (including homeless men) to sit down and share a meal with her. On the journey there, she puts on a fire, makes food, and sacrifices her food in order to give to the poor, hungry children around the camp. (SPOILER) She also keeps quiet when crossing the border to California in order to trick the guards into letting them through because the grandmother was sick when in reality she was dead the entire time. Ma was lying next to a corpse all night! While many believe that the man is the real center of the family, Ma Joad is able to break these types of gender roles and assumptions. Not only is she extremely confident, decisive, and friendly, but she also serves as the literal backbone and center of the family, supporting them throughout the entire experience.
The book even mentioned her as the “citadel of the family”. She nurtures her daughter, Rose of Sharon, through the course of her pregnancy, while also managing to keep her impulsive and aggressive son, Tom Joad, in the right state of mind. Ma Joad is able to represent all women across the world. She is able to depict the idea that a family would not survive without a woman; a woman is just as important as the male in a household. A woman like her must be able to carry not only physical things but emotional things on her shoulder as well. She is an excellent representation of how women are capable of withstanding hardships and gain strength throughout the way!