An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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Walter/Othaniel/Ghetto Yoda Character Analysis

Roy’s biological father and his third cellmate while in prison, though the two live together for some time before Roy discovers Walter’s true identity. Walter’s nickname, Ghetto Yoda, comes from his tendency to dole out wisdom to the other inmates. He fathered many children with different women before being incarcerated, and many women from personal ads visit him in prison. He refers to Roy as his son, though Roy only refers to Walter as his father in a goodbye letter to him.
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Walter/Othaniel/Ghetto Yoda Character Timeline in An American Marriage

The timeline below shows where the character Walter/Othaniel/Ghetto Yoda appears in An American Marriage. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
...her letters. In three months, he has had three cell partners. His current cellmate is Walter, an older man who has been incarcerated for most of his life. Roy writes letters... (full context)
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
...share only the older ones with his friends. She offers to put some money on Walter’s books, a.k.a. his commissary account too. (full context)
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
Roy tells Celestial that his cellmate Walter took Celestial’s side in the argument. Walter sees the negative association of incarceration with African... (full context)
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
...shock to discover that his cellmate is actually his biological father. When Roy was helping Walter with something, he saw his full name on his face sheet, Othaniel Walter Jenkins, and... (full context)
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
Roy backtracks to explain that Olive knew Walter had fathered quite a few children already, and when he found out Olive was pregnant... (full context)
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Walter tells Roy that his first instinct when Olive told him she was pregnant was to... (full context)
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
...shop soon so that Celestial can visit. She asks if she’ll be allowed to meet Walter as well as for his commissary information, so that she can put money in for... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Since Roy has learned that he will be released, Walter has been sharing non-stop advice. He reminds Roy that Celestial has been living her life... (full context)
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
...attended Olive’s funeral with Andre. Roy mentions that his cellmate was an older man named Walter who looked out for him, and Big Roy expresses his thanks for anyone who helped... (full context)
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
...on his bed. Roy responds, “Thank you, Daddy,” and thinks about how he never called Walter that, though he sensed Walter would have liked it. Together they eat the dishes that... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
...carrying his mother’s casket at the funeral. They shake on it. When Roy points out Walter as his biological father, Andre is shocked. This surprises Roy, since it proves that Celestial... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
...the garbage bag to hang himself, and when Roy tried to share the pear with Walter he refused, knowing the true cost of the fruit. Big Roy insist it was not... (full context)
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
...felt like he didn’t have a 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... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
...notes that goodbyes aren’t his strong suit, recalling that he didn’t even say goodbye to Walter when he left prison. Instead, while Walter was out of their cell, he left him... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 13
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
Roy writes to Walter to say he’s in Mississippi on his way to see Celestial. When he went to... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 13
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
...about Big Roy, all alone on this day. Roy asks why Celestial told Olive about Walter being his cellmate, since Big Roy said the news had killed Olive. Celestial claims it... (full context)
Epilogue
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
...will find peace, something “you have to make” yourself. These are words of wisdom from Walter, whom Roy still visits. His life is good, though a different version of good that... (full context)