Much of Mama’s role as a protagonist is also as a guide/mentor. As the matriarch of the family, she encourages and safeguards her children, although they may not always listen to her advice (case in point: Walter). She also intervenes when she deems it necessary, such as when Walter refused to listen to Ruth’s baby news.
Although we never see Big Walter onstage, his legacy pervades the play. Mama sets Big Walter up as a role model for the rest of the family to follow, and we learn that Big Walter was deeply invested in his kids’ futures. The man might be buried, but he’s definitely not dead as his family constantly evokes his memory.