Ma Joad plays a primary role in the novel, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. In an effort to migrate to California, Ma struggles to keep the family together. Since the Joad family has been taken away from their home, Pa Joad lost all hope for the family. Evidently, Ma took over as a leader, a mediator, and finally as a mother. She portrays her love and compassion not only to her family but to others as well. She finds it most important to never give up and to always move on no matter what. Her determination keeps the Joad family together. .
Ma's ultimate goal is to keep the family together as one. While being occupied by Grandma's sickness, Noah decides to stay back by the river and live on catching fish. Ma responds, .
"Family's fallin' apart I don' know. Seems like I can't think no more, I jus' can't think. they's too much.".
Ma is put in a state of uncertainty and discomfort. She is deeply saddened of Noah's departure but must carry on. Also, Tom has doubts of staying with the Joad family. Ma, in rage, refuses to let Tom leave, replying that she needs him to keep the family together. However, eventually, Tom is forced to leave the Joad family because of an incident causing him as well as the Joad family at risk. Reluctantly, Ma lets Tom go but is in remorse.
Throughout the novel, Ma struggles to hide her emotions from her family. Lovingly, she tries to avoid expressing herself. In conclusion, Ma is an intensely compassionate character. After Grandma's death, Ma decides to keep it to herself so she would not have to worry her family. She kept it to herself until the Joad family reached California. Ma responds to the family by saying, .
"I was afraid we wouldn' get acrost, I tol' Grandma we couldn' he'p her. The fambly had ta get acrost. I tol' her, tol' her when she was a-dyin.' We couldn' stop in the desert. There was young ones---an' Rosasharn's baby. I tol' her.".
In addition, the Joads stop to rest at a camp where Ma cooks stew for her family.