An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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Roy’s devoted mother, who has always been insistent on giving her child a better life than she had growing up. Seduced by Roy’s biological father, Othaniel, as a teenager, Olive was abandoned by him when he discovered she was pregnant. Olive cleans hotel rooms until giving birth to Roy and eventually marries Big Roy, who readily accepts both her and her son as his true family. She is skeptical of Celestial, worried that her daughter-in-law’s more privileged upbringing will cause problems for Roy. She dies of lung cancer while Roy is incarcerated.
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Olive Hamilton Character Timeline in An American Marriage

The timeline below shows where the character Olive Hamilton appears in An American Marriage. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
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...cheating on her. After breaking up, Roy went to visit his parents, Big Roy and Olive, in Eloe. There, Olive told him that his girlfriend was probably already with someone else... (full context)
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Roy believes that Olive should have liked Celestial from the beginning because they had so much in common, but... (full context)
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Upon arriving at his parents’ home, Roy bounds out of the car and Olive is elated to see him. Celestial remains in the car at first, until Roy returns... (full context)
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When the women join them in the kitchen, Olive tells Celestial that she hears her daughter-in-law is famous; Roy had sent his mother a... (full context)
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...brings in a doll swaddled like a baby, a commission for the mayor of Atlanta. Olive gasps when she sees the doll, recognizing its likeness to Roy. With Olive rendered speechless,... (full context)
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The groups eats dinner together quietly. Roy sips his iced tea and realizes Olive was so angry she mistakenly seasoned it with salt instead of sugar. His diploma then... (full context)
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...into the house, but Roy says he’s booked them a room at the Piney Woods. Olive asks if this was Celestial’s idea, but Roy takes full credit. It takes them a... (full context)
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The hotel where they stay is not particularly nice. Roy tells Celestial that Olive worked there as a cleaner when the place was called The Rebel’s Roost and a... (full context)
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At the ice machine, Roy meets a woman about Olive’s age, heavyset, with her arm in a sling. In an attempt to be courteous, he... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
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Roy says that he didn’t want Celestial’s parents to know that Olive was a teenager when he was born. Celestial reminds Roy that her own mother, Gloria,... (full context)
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Roy writes Celestial to ask if Olive is correct that Celestial is now famous. Celestial writes that she was featured in an... (full context)
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Roy backtracks to explain that Olive knew Walter had fathered quite a few children already, and when he found out Olive... (full context)
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Walter tells Roy that his first instinct when Olive told him she was pregnant was to run, and Roy worries he reacted similarly when... (full context)
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Roy writes to tell Celestial that Olive has lung cancer. He asks if Celestial will visit Olive, apologizing for running up his... (full context)
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...a chance to fully occupy the role. After seeing the way Big Roy behaved at Olive’s funeral, Celestial saw how weak her connection with Roy was. They aren’t able to share... (full context)
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...Celestial writes to wish Roy a happy birthday. She writes again around the anniversary of Olive’s death to say she’s thinking of him. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
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...says he’s glad Roy was listening and then asks if he would like to visit Olive, but Roy says he’s not ready to confront his mother’s grave. Big Roy then asks... (full context)
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Big Roy says he hasn’t seen Celestial since she attended Olive’s funeral with Andre. Roy mentions that his cellmate was an older man named Walter who... (full context)
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The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
...in the living room. Roy says a blessing and Big Roy stifles tears at how Olive only wanted to see this day, and how it’s not right that she missed it.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
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In a flashback to the Sunday before Olive’s funeral, Andre goes to visit Roy in prison while Celestial stays with Big Roy. There,... (full context)
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At Roy’s request, Celestial sings a hymn at Olive’s funeral. In the limo on the way to the cemetery, Celestial takes Andre’s hand, prompting... (full context)
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Celestial tells Andre that Olive would hit her when she went too long without visiting Roy. She says that her... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9
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Big Roy reminds Roy about the account in his name that Olive opened when he was born and contributed to over the years. He looks for the... (full context)
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...father. Roy  can tell that Big Roy knows about Walter, and the latter admits that Olive told him and Celestial told her. On Celestial’s last visit before Olive died, she asked... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
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Roy goes to the cemetery to pay his respects to Olive. He reflects that it used to be called the “colored cemetery,” and that many of... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 13
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...on his way to see Celestial. When he went to the bank he discovered that Olive had started adding the money she would have put into his commissary account into his... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
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...the night and offers him a drink. He then says it took a year after Olive died for him to be able to sleep through the night. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
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Roy finds a letter from his mother and sits down to read it. Olive tells him that she’s put this in a letter because he won’t like what she... (full context)
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Olive had tried to save Roy, but he wonders from what. Having not found the tooth... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 11
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Roy asks if Celestial has anything else to say. She thinks about Big Roy at Olive’s funeral, and how that taught her about what true love was. Roy asks if this... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 12
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...have so much, but that Roy has nothing. She says she felt the sting of Olive’s slap on her cheek the whole time she talked to Roy. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 13
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Celestial makes Roy toast in the same way Olive used to do it, which Roy recognizes as a gesture toward making him feel at... (full context)
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In prison, Olive had visited every weekend. Once she seemed different, probably aware of the cancer but not... (full context)