Write a character sketch of Martha from the story “A Field of Wheat” using two properly inserted quotations to help prove your points. 

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Martha is John’s thirty-seven-year-old wife. Together, the couple has two children, Joe and Annabelle. Martha loves her husband and children and clearly wants the best for all of them. The family depends on wheat farming for sustenance and has grappled with many losses brought about by crop failure. The hard...

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Martha is John’s thirty-seven-year-old wife. Together, the couple has two children, Joe and Annabelle. Martha loves her husband and children and clearly wants the best for all of them. The family depends on wheat farming for sustenance and has grappled with many losses brought about by crop failure. The hard farm-work that is rarely rewarded by encouraging wheat yields has kind of drained Martha. She feels like she has lost her husband’s love to the wheat. Indeed, as she looks at the three hundred acres of lush wheat that they have, she can’t help but think of the money that the season’s crop would bring them. She hopes that the “three hundred acres would perhaps give a little of what it had taken from her John, his love, his lips unclenched”. She hopes to finally have the money to send her children to the school in town, to be able to afford some of the nice clothes and cosmetics that other women had.

After their lush crop is destroyed by a sudden hail-storm, Martha is devastated. She cries to her husband, “I can’t go on any longer; I can’t, John. There’s no use, we’ve tried. It’s driving me out of my mind. I’m so tired heart-sick of it all. Can’t you see?” She thinks of how she had wanted to take hail insurance before the storm, a proposition that John had turned down. She is embittered by the constant struggling that never seems to end. However, when she finds her husband sobbing in the stables, she understands that she has to be supportive of him lest he lost his will to keep on keeping on.

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Ross’s story is about a day in the life of a wheat farmer and his family on the Great Plains. Martha, the farmer’s wife, is the central character of the story. I think the main character trait she has is strength of will in the face of constant adversity. Life on the farm is punishing: the work is relentless and unrewarding, Martha’s husband John has become emotionally unavailable and morose, and just when it seems they will have a good crop, a hail storm comes and destroys the wheat, damages their home, and kills their dog. Even though Martha is smart enough to imagine different lives for herself and her husband and to want better for her children, and even though she tells John she can’t “go on” anymore, in the end it is her husband who breaks down after the storm destroys their crop. When she sees him sobbing in the stable, it is “the strangest, most frightening moment of her life.” It is the moment she realizes that she is stronger of the two, and becomes determined to stay on the farm.

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In the story, Martha is an impoverished farmer's wife. She is still young, but a harsh life has destroyed her youthful looks. The text tells us that her eyes are "hollowed, the lips punched dry, and colorless." Martha has the face of a woman who has "aged without maturing." 

She loves her husband, Paul, but is frustrated with his stubborn faith in the land. During their quarrels, she begs him to consider going back to town to live. Her pleadings fall on deaf ears, and she begins to doubt that Paul will ever leave the land he loves. The text tells us that Martha was a schoolteacher before she married and that she had nourished great hopes for her marriage. However, the hard times have destroyed her faith in life and dispelled all her romantic notions about the land.

As time progresses, Martha discovers that she has begun to harbor contempt for her husband. When she quarrels with him, her anger is mingled with "a kind of disdain, an attitude almost of condescension, as if she no longer looked upon the farmers as her equals." Martha's anguish is exacerbated by the fact that she cannot seek solace in her husband's arms; he himself is wrestling with his own challenges and stands aloof from her struggles.

Essentially, Martha feels alienated from Paul. Even though she wants to "feel his arms supporting her, to cry a little just that he might soothe her," she knows that he has little in terms of comfort to offer her. In the end, driven to desperation, Martha tries to run away with the baby. They are caught in a sandstorm, however, and the baby dies. The death of the baby is devastating, and by the end of the story, it is clear that Martha has lost her sanity.

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