Pa is working on the truck, nailing the top rails on its sides when Tom Joad first sees him. Although he moves lithely, Pa is "an aging, graying man" with "a grizzled, bearded face". He is wearing
"a black, dirty slouch hat and a blue work shirt over which (is) a buttonless vest; his jeans (are) held up by a wide harness-leather belt with a big square brass buckle...his shoes (are) cracked and the soles swollen and boat-shaped from years of sun and wet and dust".
Despite his obvious age, Pa is a strong man. His forearms sport "bulging, powerful muscles...(his) stomach and hips (are) lean, and (his) legs short, heavy, and strong". Pa's skin is brown, and the corners of his eyes are wrinkled from long hours in the sun. From the way that he thrusts his head forward when looking at something, it is evident that his eyes are beginning to fail.
Ma Joad is also at work when Tom returns to the farm. She is making side-meat and biscuits, and when Pa announces cryptically that they have visitors, she immediately invites them to share in the meal she is preparing without even asking whom they are, giving evidence to her generous spirit.
Ma is "heavy, but not fat, thick with child-bearing and work. She wears
"a loose Mother Hubbard of gray cloth in which there had once been colored flowers, but the color (is) washed out now, so that the small flowered pattern (is) only a little lighter gray than the background".
Ma has "strong, broad, bare feet" which move "quickly and deftly" over the floor. Her hair is "steel gray", thin, and "gathered in a knot at the back of her head". Her arms are strong and freckled, and in her full, kind face her hazel eyes "(seem) to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding" (Chapter 8).