Chapter 22 from "Ma said sadly, "this here's a nice place. We could be happy here awhile."
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Ma and Pa's relationship is a direct role reversal of what we would expect in such a large family. Ma fulfills the role of caregiver; she is motherly; she loves her children and cares for the household in every way. She is also the backbone of the family. Pa Joad loves his family, but he doesn't have his wife's strength. That doesn't mean that the family patriarch never performed his role, only that we don't see him as the head of the family.
Pa was a farmer; he lost everything. Taken away from what he knows, he seems confused and has problems making decisions. This is where Ma comes in and takes up the slack. She never loses sight of the fact that they don't have time to make decision because they're living in chaos. It's a sad story all around.
The Grapes of Wrath