As a result of a crisis, Ma Joad emerges as acontrolled, forceful, and selfless authority figure for the family. Ma Joad exhibits exelent self-control during the sufferings andfrustrations of the Joad’s journey. Ma knows that she is the backbone ofthe family, and that they will survive only if she remains calm. Ma keepsher self-control when Ruthie tells some children about Tom’s secret. Thefamily becomes nervous and enraged over the situation, but Ma restoresorder by handling the situation in a calm and collected manner.
If Ma wereto ever show fear, the family would most likely collapse. For, “Old Tomand the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurtor fear. ” Thus, if Ma acts as if everything is all right, then the familywill assume everything is all right. Most members of the family openlyexpress their doubts or fears.
Ma may be just as frightened as the rest ofthe family, but she always maintains a front for the rest of the family. When Ma had fears, “She had practiced denying them in herself. ” Thisextraordinary self-control helps to keep the Joad unit together and alive. Ma, like all leaders, must be forceful for things to work in herfavor.
Numerous situations occur in which Ma must be forceful orrelinquish her role as the head of the family. Her forceful leadershipoccurs once when the family, without Ma’s consent, agrees to leave Tom andCasey behind to fix the Wilson’s car. Ma feels this will break up thefamily and uses a jack handle to prove her point. It is at this point Mareplaces Pa as the official head of the family. Ma’s forceful leadershipalso surfaces when she threatens a police officer with a frying pan andwhen she decides for the family to leave the government camp. In bothsituations Ma must use force to achieve her objectives; in both situations,she emerges victorious.
Eventually, Pa becomes angered because of his lossof power to a woman and says in frustration, “Seems like times is changed. “Ma’s will and forcefulness help her to be the steadfast leader her familyneeds in its darkest hour. Ma’s selflessness emerges as her most important quality as theleader of the family unit. Often Ma sacrifices her own well-being for thatof the family. For example, Ma risks her mental well-being when Granma isdying.
The family stops at the California border, and Granma is dead. Mafears that if she tells the guard, the family might not be allowed to enterCalifornia. She lies to the guard, saying Granma feels very sick and needsa doctor. She spends the rest of the night lying beside the body, waitinguntil it is safe to tell the family. In response to the situation, Ma saysmiserably, “The fambly hadda get acrost. ” Ma’s selfless qualities are alsoexpressed by her actions toward Jim Casey’s ideals.
Casey feels that allis holy, and everything is a holy action. In nearly every action, Ma showsconcern for her family’s needs and sometimes, when the situation arises,the needs of strangers as well. Also, Casey believes in an oversoul, andMa’s selflessness embraces this concept. Ma thinks of everyone as if sheis thinking of herself, making her one with the whole community, thusfulfilling the oversoul concept. Ma’s sacrifice of her needs for those ofthe family is a subtle yet powerful method of her leadership of the familyunit. In the Joad’s hour of darkness, Ma emerges as their savior.
Ma’ssuccess can be attributed to superb self-control, forcefulness, andselflessness. Just as Ma leads, Pa is shown to be no more than areluctant follower. In a crisis, a person’s true colors show. Some peoplerun and hide, some step aside to follow, and a select few step up and lead.