An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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An American Marriage: Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Andre believes that his current situation is comparable to being married to a widow. He knows it’s not reasonable to be jealous of the past, in the form of Roy, and stakes his claim to Celestial by saying he has loved her for his whole life, having grown up next door to each other beneath the centuries-old Old Hickey tree. He knows Celestial is not really his, but he also knows she is not Roy’s either. Andre feels that starting a romantic relationship with Celestial at this point is wrong, but he also can’t deny his feelings.
This moment reveals that, as Roy subtly suggested, a romantic relationship has indeed developed between Andre and Celestial. Andre’s comparison of Celestial to a widow reinforces the idea that prison is a sort of death for Roy, truncating all his individual dreams and also causing the demise of his marriage. Andre tries to prove the validity of his relationship with Celestial by pointing to their shared history.
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Andre reflects on how, upon his parents divorced when he was seven, Celestial volunteered Franklin to be Andre’s new daddy, though Mr. Davenport never quite felt like a father to him. They went to a dance together in high school for lack of other options, kissing on the way home and then again in the basement of Celestial’s house. When he told his mother Evie the next day, she said that he had to go next door and ask Celestial to be his girlfriend. Celestial asked if they could forget what they’d done, though, which broke Andre’s heart. He says he shares all of this to establish that they had a history, as opposed to a random “accident of time and place.”
Andre’s introduction of his parents’ divorce foreshadows the story he will later share about the effect this separation had on him. Andre gives evidence that he and Celestial felt romance blossoming between them even in their youth as a means to legitimize their current relationship, asserting that their bond runs deep and their coupling is much more than a random coincidence.
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After high school, they went to separate schools: Andre to Morehouse in Atlanta and Celestial to Howard in D.C., before Celestial returned home from college prematurely and transferred to Spelman. She would visit his dorm room at Morehouse and ask to spend the night, but they’d sleep with the covers between them for modesty. When Roy burst into Andre’s dorm room that first time, it seemed clear that Celestial was totally uninterested, seeing through his clodhopper way of being harmlessly seductive.
Andre continues to track the development of his relationship with Celestial, identifying the intimacy of sleeping in the same bed even as he points out the chasteness of such encounters. Andre tells again the way that Celestial expressed littler interest in Roy at their first meeting as a sign that they were not destined for each other.
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Roy asked Andre if there was anything happening between him and Celestial and Andre confirmed there was not. Andre refused to clue Roy into any intel regarding Celestial, but the two found each other again on their own three or four years later. Andre’s happiness for Roy and Celestial at their wedding was genuine, but Andre acknowledges how circumstances can change, and he can’t apologize for the nearly three years he and Celestial have been partnered at this point. They have pursued their feelings despite the ghost of Roy always being nearby. 
Andre has clearly always been protective of Celestial. Though he was happy for Roy and Celestial when they married, he points out how feelings can change; in doing so, however, he diminishes the efforts he’s shown to prove that the link between himself and Celestial has remained constant over the years.
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Related Quotes
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In the present, Andre comes home from work one day to find Celestial drinking wine at the kitchen table. She tells him that Roy is being released, and they toast to Uncle Banks. She asks Andre if he thinks Roy wants to return home to Atlanta, and she suggests that she and Andre live in her house while setting up Roy in Andre’s house. Andre knows this could never work. The month before, Celestial had finally agreed to discuss divorce papers and Andre had purchased a ring. He’d planned to wake her up the next morning, on Thanksgiving, with the ruby ring, despite her assertion that she no longer believes in marriage.
Andre and Celestial toasting to Banks instead of Roy indicates the way they choose to celebrate the correction of the error made by the criminal justice system, rather than the return of Celestial’s husband. While Celestial had previously agreed to finally move forward with the divorce, she hadn’t yet taken action—suggesting her continued reluctance to confront the end of her relationship with Roy and complicating Andre’s intention to propose.
Themes
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Celestial asks Andre what they’ll do, and Andre says their first obligation is to tell Roy. They have four weeks to work out their plan. Andre offers to go talk to Roy, but Celestial believes that Roy deserves to hear the news of their coupling from her. Andre shows Celestial the ring he’s bought, and she asks if it’s a proposal; he says it’s a promise. Celestial tells him it’s all too much for her right now and goes to her room. He doesn’t follow, instead pouring himself some scotch and sitting under Old Hickey, thinking about all the dolls that look like Roy.
While Celestial’s question over what they will do now that Roy is coming home might include whether or not she will reunite with Roy, Andre seems to interpret the question as being purely about how they will move forward with their own relationship. Celestial wants to share the news herself, but Andre fights her for the opportunity, perhaps sensing how things might turn if the married couple discusses the situation on their own. Andre’s focus on the dolls further suggests that he feels threatened by Roy and Celestial’s past, even has he sits beneath a symbol of his own history with Celestial.
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Later that night, Celestial finally calls out to Andre. She tells him to come to bed, and he embraces her. He asks her what her answer is, but she refuses to respond and they go to bed, although they can’t sleep. Early the next morning they make love, and Andre accepts this as a sign that Celestial wants to be with him. He tells her they aren’t together only because Roy was locked up, and she says she knows. He begs her to marry him and she responds so close that Andre can “taste” her words.
Celestial still won’t give Andre an answer about his proposal, but he searches each of her actions for clues that she won’t return to Roy now that he is being released. Though we’re informed that Celestial responds to Andre’s proposal, we’re not told what that response is, creating a sense of suspense and tension.
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