And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.

– John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 8. Using a simile, Steinbeck compares Ma Joad to a goddess. Without doubt Steinbeck’s creation is one of the strongest female characters in literature, and at a time when women were generally not thought of as strong. She is portrayed as the Joads’ healer, their source of strength and calm and happiness, the glue that holds her family together. She is the to-go person, regardless of how good or bad the situation is.