Ethnography of Al Joad

The Grapes of Wrath


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Al observes the possible cars to purchase for the trip to California. He is very critical of the quality of the car in order to insure that it will be able to make the trip to California. He also constantly observes the components of the car while they are driving to ensure that they do not cause any serious damage to the car that could postpone their trip to California.

"Al, bending over the wheel, kept shifting his eyes from the road to the instrument panel, watching the ammeter needle, which jerked suspiciously, watching the oil gauge and the heat indicator. And his mind was cataloguing weak points and suspicious things about the car" (Steinbeck 96).


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Al was always complaining about the work he was doing and how he would much rather be working in a garage. He is much less productive then the other men in the family and never pushes himself to do more. His dream is to work in a garage and that seems to be the only job he would fully apply himself to and simply thinks about garages and cars while he works in the fields.

"'Christ Awmighty,' Al said. 'I ruther work in a garage.'

Pa had followed docilely into the field. He turned suddenly on Al. 'Now you jus' quit it,' he said. 'You been a-hankerin' an' a-complainin' an' a-bullblowin'. You get to work" (Steinbeck 371).


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In Al's free time he is usually off with a girl somewhere or working on the truck. He is always chasing girls throughout the whole book and promises to marry two girls in the book one of which he lives during the book. He constantly off with a girl even when the family needs him. During the rare occasions when he is not off with a girl he is usually working on the truck, trying to keep it running.

"'Well, we're gonna git married, ain't we?'

'Sure, sometime'... 'You promised.' He walked his fingers around farther. 'Git away', she cried. 'You said we was.'" (Steinbeck 355).


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Al is in the same clothing for the majority of the book and does not buy new clothes until they work at the peach farm and begin to finally make decent money. He does not care about his clothes and is satisfied with his one pair of overalls. He seems to be worried about many other things.

"On a Saturday they drove into Tulare, and they bought a tin stove and new overalls for Al and Pa and Winfield and Uncle John, and they bought a dress for Ma" (Steinbeck 409)