Ma Joad is the moral force that holds together her family, and at times she displays great weariness from the burden. Nevertheless, as the matriarch, it is she who keeps the Joads together and exhibits her love and charity for all. In Chapter 10, for instance, the preacher Jim Casy with whom Tom Joad has reunited as he returns from prison, asks if he may accompany the Joads on their exodus from the Dust Bowl:
"I wonder if I kin go along with you folks." And then he stood, embarrassed by his own speech.
Ma looked to Tom to speak, because he was a man, but Tome did not speak. She let him have the chance that was his right, and then she said, "Why, we'd be proud to have you."
Ma says this despite the fact that they have so very little themselves. Later, in Chapter 20 when the Joads arrive at a work camp, Ma goes outside their tent and begins to cook supper; she makes a fire on which to cook a stew. When they smell the aroma of food, about fifteen children gather around, "their noses crinkled slightly." One girl offers to break some brush for Ma; Ma looks up,
"You want ta get ast to eat, huh?'
"Yes, ma'am," the girl said steadily.
When asked, the girl tells Ma that she has not had any breakfast because her father can find no work. Then, when Tom turns on the children, telling them, "You git." Ma cannot refuse them. She ladles a little stew onto plates and lays them on the ground; then, she tells them to find flat sticks that they can use to eat what is left after she feeds her family.
Ma is a strong person, very protective of her family as she provides for them first; however, she has a tender, motherly heart and cannot be cruel to people who are innocent.