Ma's Lifestyle

By: Seana Gosselin


Quote: "Good cotton bag, last all season. An' when she's wore out, draggin', turn 'er aroun', use the other end. Sew up the open end. Open up the wore en. And when both ends is gone, why, that's nice cloth! Makes a nice pair a summer drawers. Makes nightshirts" (Steinbeck 406).

Starting out on the Joad's journey to California Ma wore a faded flower-print dress, a gray Mother Hubbard, and bare feet. Like many mothers suffering through the depression, fashion was not a concern to them, where as providing food for their families was the priority. To save money many people would use their cotton picking bags as clothing, which were said to endure a lot of wear. Using their resources was extremely important during these hard times.


Quote: "The watchman stepped up on the running board. 'Drive down the end of that line an' turn right. You'll be in Number Four Sanitary Unit. 'Whats that?' 'Toilets and showers and wash tubs.' Ma demanded, 'You got wash tubs- running water?' 'Sure.' 'Oh! Praise God,' said Ma" (Steinbeck 286).

As the Joads made their journey West, they mainly lived in their truck and often slept in tents along the way. Once they reached California, they stopped at many different hoovervilles, government camps, and boxcars. It varied with different levels of comfort, some places had running water and some did not. Ma rarely complained about the living conditions and always tried to keep the family spirit positive.


Quote: "Ma ladled stew into the tin plates, very little stew, and she laid the plates on the ground. 'I can't send 'em away,' she said. 'I don' know what to do. Take your plates an' go inside. I'll let em' have what's left'. Here, take a plate in to Rosasharn.' She smiled up at the children" (Steinbeck 257).

During the Joad's family migration West, Ma and the rest of the family found it hard to supply food. One of Ma's biggest worries throughout their journey was not knowing if there would be food to feed her family tomorrow. Basically, they lived off a diet of boiled potatoes, salted pork chops, and fried dough.


Quote: "Hang it around your waist. Straddle it, drag it between your legs. She drags light at first. And your fingertips pick out the fluff, and the hands go twisting into the sack between your legs... She hangs heavy, some, now" (Steinbeck 406-407).

The Joad family worked mostly on the farms picking peaches, or in the fields picking cotton. Ma also worked very hard, both physically and mentally, in taking care of all her children in order to maintain healthy living conditions for her family.