Women are typically known for holding families together. When times get rough, women are the foundation to the family and help keep things together. A woman poses different qualities that can help keep the family strong. These qualities can be categorized in the four archetypes of a woman.
The idea of the woman archetype is presented by Carl Jung. The first is Mother Nature, the very physical aspect and the second is the virgin, which represents the spiritual aspect of the archetype. The third is the young, the physical state while the fourth is the old witch possessing the spiritual side of the woman archetype. The four women in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath represent these four archetypes and take on responsibilities that, in the end, help the family succeed in achieving their dreams.
Ma Joad is a woman of strength and hope who is the backbone of the family. She represents the Mother Nature archetype because she possesses the physical aspect of guiding the family and staying strong when the family needs her most. Steinbeck shows the importance of Ma's character by the syntax usage to describe her.
"Ma was heavy, but not fat; thick with child-bearing and work…her ankles, and her strong, broad, bare feet moved quickly and deftly over the floor", Ma is described with these features to show her strength as a mother who has control and survives through hard situations (99-100.) Her 'bare feet' being close to the earth shows how she takes on a 'Mother Nature' archetype to her character. She is one with the earth just as Mother Nature is.
Mother Nature is one that gives birth, produces, sustains life and nurtures her family. All of these archetypes are expressed in Ma's character. Even though she is a very strong woman, Ma still knows her role in the family. She knows when it is her time to help the family and when it is appropriate to step back and let the father run things.
It is an unsaid statement but known by all in the family that "Ma was powerful in the group" and they look to her for important decision making (133.) She is looked to for guidance and decisions so the family looks to her on how to react to situations. If she is unhappy, then the family is unhappy. When she is upset something is wrong. Ma understands this concept and knows that she must control her reactions and emotions.
Ma's "…full face was not soft; it was controlled kindly" because she knows she is the role model in her family (100.) When Tom left to go to jail, she had to control her real feelings toward missing him because she did not want the family to be upset as well.Al explains to Tom, "she mourned when you was gone.
Done it all to herself.Kinda cryin' down inside of her through.We could tell what she was thinkin' about, though" (240.) The family knew how she was feeling even though she tried to hide it. All Ma wants to see is her family live in happiness.
But it is hard for a mother to accomplish this when it is not in her control. The hardest thing for a mother to do is let her children make their own decisions and live their own lives. Ma shows her true character in the final scene where she lets Rose of Sharon make her own decision.
“Ma's eyes passed Rose of Sharon's eyes, and then came back to them. And the two women looked deep into each other. The girl's breath came short and gasping. She said, 'Yes.' Ma smiled.
'I knowed you would. I knowed!'” (618.) Ma is able to sit back and let Rose of Sharon decide for herself to give up part of herself to help another. There is nothing she can do but sit with ".
..her hands, tight- locked in her lap" because she knows it is something Rose of Sharon has to decide (618.) Because of Ma’s passiveness in making her daughter’s decision for her, she helps make an influence on Rose of Sharon by showing her the mother’s duties in life to let their children learn from their own decisions and mistakes. Rose of Sharon is a young woman seeking guidance and council.
She very much represents the virgin, one who lacks experience and is constantly learning how to be a proper mother from Ma, eventually becoming wise enough to make her own decisions. She is one that carries life and will be able to impact others around her by her actions.Rose of Sharon not only carries life in her uterus, but also in her person. She stands spiritually as a Christ-like figure. We see a foreshadowing of these attributes as her hair represents a somewhat halo on her head as if a biblical allusion to Christ.
"Her hair, braided and wrapped around her head, made an ash-blonde crown” (129). She sees things in the eyes of new life and reproduction;" … The world was pregnant to her," and with this pregnancy she is able to see and understand things that others may not (130.) When one is in need she is able to put others before.