Her full face was not soft; it was controlled, kindly.
Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding.
She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken.
And since Old Tom and the children could not know hurt of fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself.
And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials.
But better than joy was calm.
Imperturbability could be depended upon. 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.
text: quoted from Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath
images: from Eudora Welty's Depression Era collection