© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck
Ma Joad Timeline and Summary
When Ma sees Tom for the first time in a long time, fireworks practically shoot out of her ears, she's so happy. Cooking breakfast and salting pigs make for a busy day. Ma feeds the family before the journey westward. The Joad truck is too overloaded, and so Ma Joad has to burn a lot of her possessions. When Grampa won't get in the Joad truck, Ma drugs him by mixing his coffee with sleepytime cough medicine. As Grampa grows more and more sick in the Wilson's tent, Ma takes care of him. Sairy Wilson is nice to Ma Joad, and the two women form a bond. Ma Joad prepares Grampa's dead body. When Tom suggests that the family push on and leave him with the broken touring car, Ma has a hissy fit. As Granma grows more and more sick, Ma Joad nurses her. When a Jehovite woman clad in black comes to pray over Granma, Ma kicks her out of the Joad tent. The rude policeman almost gets a skillet chucked at his head when Ma Joad kicks him out of her tent. Ivy Wilson refuses to accept the Joad's food and money, but Ma Joad leaves it on the ground for him nonetheless. Granma's health continues to decline, and Ma Joad nurses her in the back of the Joad truck. Granma dies in Ma Joad's arms. The border guard stops the Joads so that he can inspect the truck for fruit, but Ma Joad begs him to let them pass quickly. When they can see the valley before them, Ma Joad tells the family that Granma Joad is dead and has been dead for a while. When they reach Bakersfield, Ma Joad, Pa Joad, and Uncle John take Granma to the coroner's office. As soon as they get to the Hooverville, Ma Joad cooks a stew for breakfast. The morning after the Joads reach Weedpatch, Ma scrambles to get herself and her campsite prim and proper for the Ladies Committee. Ma Joad watches the Weedpatch dance with Rose of Sharon. With no jobs to be found, Ma Joad makes the executive decision that the family will leave Weedpatch in search of jobs. After the men have earned a dollar picking peaches, Ma Joad buys groceries at the peach camp's grocery store. With her groceries, Ma cooks hamburgers for the family. The next morning, Ma picks peaches. When Winfield eats too many peaches, Ma nurses him back to health by giving him some milk. Now that they are living large on the salary of cotton pickers, Ma Joad cooks pork chops and potatoes for the family on her boxcar stove. When Ruthie spills the Tom beans, Ma Joad visits Tom in the brush, brings him dinner, and tells him he has to run away. Ma Joad says goodbye to Tom. When Rose of Sharon catches a chill, Ma Joad takes good care of her. With Mrs. Wainwright's help, Ma Joad delivers Rose of Sharon's stillborn baby. The floodwaters continue to rise, and Ma Joad decides that the will go find higher and drier ground. In the barn Ma Joad asks the boy for a blanket. After exchanging a meaningful look with Rose of Sharon, Ma Joad ushers the Joads and the little boy out of the barn, leaving Rose of Sharon and the starving man alone.