An American Marriage


Tayari Jones

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An American Marriage: Part 2, Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Roy 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 a note in which he finally called Walter “his father” and referring to himself as Walter’s son, a gift he knows will please him. He leaves a picture of him and Celestial.
Roy’s lingering resentments had previously barred him from referring to Walter as his father. The care Walter provided for Roy in prison, however, prompts Roy to offer this letter as a kindness and suggests that much of Roy’s anger towards Walter is gone.
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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 the graves are for young men; Walter once told him that black men could expect only two fates—being “carried by six or judged by twelve.” The grave marker bears both Olive’s name and “Roy,” and for a moment Roy thinks it refers to him before realizing it is the future marker for Big Roy. Roy weeps on Olive’s grave, like he did the day he received his sentence in court. He thanks her for all her love and care and says goodbye. As he stops to fill the tank of the car, he thinks he hears his mama’s voice tell him, “Any fool can up and go.” He fills in the rest of her meaning and heads to Davina’s house, but she’s not home.
Roy understands that the prevalence of graves for young men in a traditionally black cemetery reflects their lack of opportunities and the way prejudice shapes their lives; they can expect to die young or be sentenced to prison. Roy seeing his father’s name on the grave marker provides another echo of the way in which Roy is experiencing the death of his former self. Olive’s words prompt Roy to more thoughtfully consider what he had with Davina.
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Roy goes to Walmart to see Davina. He apologizes to her for leaving town abruptly and not sticking around to see what might develop between them. She asks if his plan was to return to his wife all along, and he avoids her question, instead thanking her. She curses him, though he insists he cares about her. She tells him she wants two things: that he not spread rumors about her around town and that he doesn’t come knocking on her door again.
Roy never technically lied to Davina about his intentions to reunite with Celestial, though his actions were arguably misleading. Davina is understandably annoyed by Roy skipping town, and her request indicates she predicts that things won’t work out with Celestial but doesn’t want to be Roy’s second choice.
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