The character of Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

The Grapes of Wrath

Ma Joad Character Analysis

Ma Joad is the ferociously dedicated matron of the Joad family. Throughout the novel she makes countless sacrifices for the good of her family, and is remarkably committed to keeping the family moving forward. Her confident leadership sometimes clashes with Pa’s notions, but her willpower always wins out over his patriarchal authority.

Ma Joad Quotes in The Grapes of Wrath

The The Grapes of Wrath quotes below are all either spoken by Ma Joad or refer to Ma Joad. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of The Grapes of Wrath published in 2002.
Chapter 10 Quotes

And now they [the Joads] were weary and frightened because they had gone against a system they did not understand and it had beaten them.

Related Characters: Tom Joad, Ma Joad, Pa Joad, Rose of Sharon, Grampa Joad, Granma Joad, Al Joad
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

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“It ain't kin we? It's will we?” …As far as ‘kin,’ we can’t do nothin’, not go to California or nothin’; but as far as ‘will,’ why, we’ll do what we will. An’ as far as ‘will’—it’s a long time our folks been here and east before, an' I never heerd tell of no Joads or no Hazletts, neither, ever refusin’ food an’ shelter or a lift on the road to anybody that asked. They’s been mean Joads, but never that mean.”

Related Characters: Ma Joad (speaker)
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 18 Quotes

“They's a time of change, an' when that comes, dyin' is a piece of all dyin', and bearin' is a piece of all bearin', an bearin' an' dyin' is two pieces of the same thing. An' then things ain't lonely any more. An' then a hurt don't hurt so bad, cause it ain't a lonely hurt no more, Rosasharn. I wisht I could tell you so you'd know, but I can't.”

Related Characters: Ma Joad (speaker), Rose of Sharon
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 26 Quotes

“Learnin' it all a time, ever' day. If you're in trouble or hurt or need—go to poor people. They're the only ones that'll help—the only ones.”

Related Characters: Ma Joad (speaker)
Page Number: 376
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Ma Joad Character Timeline in The Grapes of Wrath

The timeline below shows where the character Ma Joad appears in The Grapes of Wrath. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...his son is home on parole and isn’t a fugitive. Inside the house, Tom’s mother, Ma, mistakes Tom for a stranger and offers him some food. Once she realizes she’s speaking... (full context)
Chapter 10
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Ma Joad tells Tom about her hopes for California. She remembers seeing handbills advertising high wages... (full context)
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Casy asks Tom, Ma, and Grampa Joad if he can come along to California with them. Ma quickly answers... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...their house. The family holds a conference to decide whether Casy can come with them. Ma Joad overrules her husband’s uncertainty and plays a crucial role in this decision, saying that... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
The family prepares for the journey. Casy offers to help Ma Joad salt down the meat. She is surprised, since the task is “women’s work,” but... (full context)
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...leave. Pa offers Muley a chance to travel with them to California, but Muley refuses. Ma Joad asks him if he’ll ever leave Oklahoma, and Muley answers that he can’t bring... (full context)
Chapter 13
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
...and vibration, and listens attentively for any signs of malfunction. As he drives, he asks Ma whether she is scared of traveling to a new place. She is quick to reply... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
...new cars stop at the corporate gas stations in the nearby town. Once he notices Ma Joad, the fat man cuts short his complaints about poor migrants, and instead commiserates about... (full context)
Chapter 16
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Rosasharn tells Ma that once the group arrives in California, she and Connie plan to live in town... (full context)
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...to stay with the car while the group continues on. Pa supports this plan, but Ma challenges his authority by refusing to go along. Pa, humiliated by his wife, backs down,... (full context)
Chapter 18
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
...stifling heat, yelling out at Grampa Joad. Rosasharn looks after her, and is distressed, but Ma Joad explains that birth and death are part of a larger process, and aren’t as... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
A sheriff pokes his head into the tent that houses Ma Joad, Rosasharn, and Granma. He calls the family “Okies” and tells them that they aren’t... (full context)
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
...back down when they see how bad Granma looks, and they let the car through. Ma Joad insists that the family cross the desert before stopping. (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
The family reaches California. Ma Joad reveals that Granma’s been dead since before they passed the checkpoint. Casy admires and... (full context)
Chapter 20
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Hungry children walk around the camp and watch Ma Joad prepare dinner. One of them tells Ma about a government camp that offers comfortable... (full context)
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
...Tom causes Uncle John anguish, and John needs to get drunk to cope with it. Ma and Pa give him permission to go. (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...walking south along the river—he has abandoned the family. Pa denounces Connie as arrogant, but Ma urges the family not to speak ill of Connie, since he is still the father... (full context)
Chapter 22
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
At the camp, Pa, Al, and Uncle John prepare to search for work. As Ma cooks breakfast, the camp manager, Jim Rawley, comes by to introduce himself. Ma is initially... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
The three women in charge of the camp’s Ladies’ Committee visit Ma and Rosasharn and explain how their committee regulates some aspects of camp life, particularly sanitation.... (full context)
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Mrs. Sandry finds Ma and tries to preach to her, but Ma chases her off with a stick. Mr.... (full context)
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Pa, Al, and Uncle John come home empty-handed: they couldn’t find work. Ma is hopeful, trusting that Tom has found work. (full context)
Chapter 24
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...chased away by the girl’s mother. Meanwhile, Rosasharn agrees to come to the dance with Ma, but on the condition that she can abstain from dancing. (full context)
Chapter 26
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...Winfield is very ill, and Tom has been the only man able to find work. Ma Joad insists that they leave the next morning. Pa is indignant that a woman is... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Rosasharn complains that she is undernourished and worries for her child. Ma gives Rosasharn her gold earrings, and pierces her daughter’s ears for her. (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...which charges inflated prices for food. The day’s wage isn’t enough to feed the Joads. Ma asks the shopkeeper to give her ten extra cents worth of sugar. He agrees to... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...two-and-a-half cents per box, as Casy predicted. The family decides to leave the camp, and Ma is adamant that Tom come with them. Pa resents her dominance but agrees. (full context)
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...into a boxcar near a plantation. Tom sets up camp in a culvert nearby, and Ma plans to secretly bring him food. (full context)
Chapter 28
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Winfield tells Ma that Ruthie has told on Tom. Another girl bullied Ruthie and took her Cracker Jack.... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Ma advises Tom to travel far away, and offers him seven dollars to take with him.... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
On her way back from visiting Tom, a farm owner approaches Ma and offers her work on his cotton plantation. Ma agrees to pick for 90¢, and... (full context)
Chapter 30
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...build the dam, Mrs. Wainwright tells him that Rosasharn’s baby was stillborn. Pa agonizes to Ma about his responsibility for the failed dam, but Ma tells him not to blame himself. (full context)
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...family’s last bit of money to buy potatoes for dinner. After days of intermittent rain, Ma decides to move the family somewhere safer. Al elects to stay with the Wainwrights, and... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...keep solid food down. The boy begs for milk or soup to give his father. Ma and Rosasharn exchange a wordless glance, and Rosasharn says “Yes.” The family leaves the barn,... (full context)