Al Capone Does My Shirts: Important Quotes with Page Number
1. “Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water” (Chapter 1, p. 3). Right at the start of the novel, Moose’s sour attitude towards his new home is obvious. His tone is sardonic while establishing the novel’s setting.
2. “The convicts we have are the kind other prisons don’t want…You get to Alcatraz (AKA: Devil’s Island) by being the worst of the worst” (Chapter 1, p. 3). Further to the quotation above, Moose does not forget to mention the company he keeps on Alcatraz Island. Living close to the prisoners makes him somewhat of a celebrity at school because it is so dangerous, but he sees this as just another reason to hate his new situation.
3. “A haze rises from the bay like a wall of gray closing me off from everything” (Chapter 2, p. 10). Moose’s description of the weather parallels the dark mood and sense of isolation that he feels living on Alcatraz Island. It is no wonder that in the first portion of the novel he is longing for home.
4. “The last thing I want is to meet new kids when Natalie’s around. New people don’t understand about her. They just don’t” (Chapter 2, p. 10). Here Moose seems to be embarrassed about Natalie, or at least worries about trying to explain Natalie’s condition to other people. If he’s going to meet new people, he would like to make a good impression. However, this statement also suggests that Moose has an understanding of Natalie that most people do not have; this desire to keep her “hidden” may be his way of protecting her from mistreatment and judgment as well.
5. “I don’t like getting in trouble. I was born responsible. It’s a curse” (Chapter 3, p. 16). Moose’s self-assessment is an important detail that we see demonstrated in his later interactions with Piper. She is more interested in exciting and daring schemes and manages to lure Moose away from his rule-abiding nature.
6. “Was this how Natalie felt on the way to the Esther P. Marinoff School? Maybe some big ladies will come along and drag me inside kicking and screaming too. Sometimes it seems easier to be Natalie. People force her to do stuff. I have to force myself” (Chapter 7, p. 42). Moose develops a notable ability to see things from Natalie’s experiences and can contrast them with his own. Here, he suggests that his life is harder than Natalie’s because he does not have an “excuse” to reject what he does not want.
7. “‘You got to get along with Piper. Otherwise she’ll make trouble for you and your dad’” (Chapter 9, p. 57). Annie warns Moose about the danger of fraternizing with Piper. Because her father is the Warden, if Moose does something Piper dislikes she can cause real trouble for the Flanagan family. They cannot afford for Cam to lose his job; this warning from Annie puts added pressure on Moose to tread carefully.
8. “With Natalie there never is a happy ending. But my mom won’t ever believe that” (Chapter 11, p. 67-68). Moose provides some important family history of how Helen has dealt with Natalie’s condition in the past. Rather than accepting Natalie for who she is Helen has spent years trying to solve her as a “problem”. Moose also mentions Helen’s unfailing, and hurtful, optimism.
9. “Mrs. Kelly says we can’t let ourselves get in Natalie’s way. She said we’re the stumbling block. If Natalie’s going to change, we have to change first” (Chapter 13, p. 81). This statement from Helen Flanagan is quiet ironic. While in some ways she has encouraged the family to make big changes and sacrifices for Natalie’s sake, she has not changed her attitude towards Natalie’s disability.
Moose challenges her later in the book for not facing the truth, and until she makes that change, Natalie does not improve. It is only when Helen gets out of Natalie’s “way”, and accepts her for who she is, that Natalie really develops.
10. “We need to help Natalie join the human race” (Chapter 13, p. 83). While this statement is made with the best of intentions—wanting to have Natalie interact more with everyone—it implies that somehow she is not already a member of the human race because of her disability. It is a paradox that the effort to keep her isolated and protected from others actually feeds into her stagnation.
11. “I hardly noticed putting on my first convict-washed shirt” (Chapter 16, p. 98). This statement from Moose is his first acknowledgement of his proximity to the prisoners at Alcatraz; it would seem that Piper’s exploitation of the notoriety of where they live has influenced Moose. However, this is also clear foreshadowing of Moose’s involvement with Al Capone at the end of the book.
12. “Piper is quite the criminal” (Chapter 16, p. 98). Moose makes a direct correlation between Piper’s actions and those of the prisoners that her dad is in charge of. This may suggest that the status of a person does not necessarily make them any “better” than anyone else, even notorious convicts.
13. “I’ll tell them about a brown-haired girl who took our whole seventh-grade class to the cleaners” (Chapter 16, p. 102). This fun, play-on-words is spoken by Del Peabody after he is disappointed with Piper’s laundry scheme. He is clearly aware of her manipulation; furthermore, it shows her ability to persuade her entire peer group to fall for her plan.
14. “We all have to help out, Moose. That’s the only way this is going to work” (Chapter 17, p. 104). Since Helen Flanagan has taken on piano students to help their family make ends meet, more responsibility has been placed on Moose’s shoulders.
Even though he is younger than Natalie he still has to look after her and at first he is resentful. However, this responsibility is also an important factor in his overall maturation in the story. It goes to show that having someone with a condition like Natalie in the family adds pressure to everyone.
15. “On Alcatraz there’s nothing to do, no one to do it with and nothing to look forward to either” (Chapter 21, p. 125). After Piper’s laundry scheme gets all of the kids in serious trouble, and things at home are even more difficult for Moose, his struggles grow increasingly intense. His despair is echoed in this statement and adds to his feelings of entrapment.
16. “It’s like the last two months haven’t happened for her. Her head is full of just as many schemes as it was before” (Chapter 21, p. 127). This is two months after the kids were punished for the laundry scheme and it is as though Piper has learned nothing from the incident. Clearly, she has no interest in following the rules and no regard for the negative consequences her ideas caused for everyone else. However, Moose and the others are wiser because of it and she knows that they won’t trust her again.
17. “I keep thinking about when Al Capone was a baby. I’ll bet his mama sang him the same song she sang to Rocky. I’ll bet she held his hand when they crossed the street, packed his lunch for school and sewed his name in his jacket—A. CAPONE so everyone would know it was his. I’ll bet she wishes she could do it all over again too…if only Al were little and she could” (Chapter 22, p. 134). Meeting Mrs. Capone and watching her humiliation at the hands of the guards at Alcatraz humanizes her for Moose. He watched her gently soothe Rocky Mattaman on her way to visit her dangerous, convicted son in prison.
However, he is not fascinated by her because of her infamous son; rather, he feels a deep empathy for her and he imagines what she must have once dreamed of for her son. This is one of several times that Moose exhibits a real compassion for others.
18. “Sometimes Natalie is saner than I am” (Chapter 23, p. 138). At the beginning of the novel, Moose was almost embarrassed by his sister. However, as the story moved along and he spent more time with her, he not only understood things more from her perspective, but he grew to appreciate her special traits. Even though he is considered the “normal” one of the two, he recognizes that he is flawed and Natalie has strengths.
19. “Natalie and I hunt every day” (Chapter 25, p. 143). This statement reflects Moose’s obsession with finding a convict baseball. His daily baseball hunt can be compared to Natalie’s favorite activities as well. It is on these hunts that the crux of Natalie’s humanity is revealed when she makes her own friend—convict #105.
20. “Natalie sitting on a rock with someone. A man. He is wearing a denim shirt and denim pants…. Natalie is sitting with a con” (Chapter 26, p. 147). Although Moose’s greatest fear is that Natalie has been taken advantage of by a criminal, this description seems to present Natalie as fully conscious of what she is doing. She is being social and building a personal relationship with someone completely on her own. It is a testament to her individuality, and shows that Moose and her family have underestimated her.
21. “‘You like to play with fire. You love being around all of this criminal stuff, don’t you? ’” (Chapter 29, p. 164). Moose’s assessment of Piper demonstrates how wise he has become regarding her nature. Through his experiences with his sister, Moose has become an insightful judge of character. Also, he is no longer afraid to speak his mind and be honest with the people around him.
22. “’You two never try to understand each other’” (Chapter 32, p. 175). This statement by Cam Flanagan is directed towards Helen and Moose. This is also one of the major themes of the novel: that conflict can arise when people do not try to understand each other. There is tension between Moose and his mother for most of the story and this is because they are both “trapped” in their own way of thinking, especially about Natalie.
Once Moose and his mother are more open and honest with each other—when they try to see things from each other’s perspective—they see the better qualities in each other as well, and a mutual respect grows from that.
23. “I wonder if this is how my mother feels. How she always felt” (Chapter 37, p. 201). Here Moose demonstrates his ability to try and see things from his mother’s perspective. Rather than continuing his judgment of her and how she views Natalie, he sees how difficult things have been for his mother. He understands that Helen’s many attempts to “fix” Natalie were never out of malice, but out of love for her daughter.
24. “When you love someone, you have to try things even if they don’t make sense to anyone else” (Chapter 37, p. 201). This is the explanation that Moose has for his parents’ actions, and his own. Moving to Alcatraz was the worst thing that could have happened to him, but he knows now that his father had to do it to take care of their family, even if it seemed unfair.
Moose rarely agreed with how his mother dealt with Natalie’s disability and her refusal to give up on the Esther P. Marinoff School, but he finally understood that true love for someone may cause a person to do ridiculous things. He was feeling so desperate to help Natalie that he reached out to Al Capone. He would do anything to aid his sister in getting the help she needed.
25. “’…because then he remembers he has one. And he knows we know her too. Makes him act better’” (Chapter 38, p. 210). By making mention of Al Capone’s mother, Moose is able to connect to a stranger, a dangerous convict, like he is a regular human being. Just as he was able to see Mrs. Capone’s humanity, by mentioning his mother Moose is trying to see Al’s too, and, it works. Knowing that this little detail may be the reason Al Capone helped him also illustrates how much Moose understands people.