An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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

Summary
Analysis
Celestial says that she was barely married when she and Roy were pulled apart from each another. She says that marriage is like grafting a limb onto a tree trunk: it can take two years for the plants to fully join. On Thanksgiving, she wakes up wearing Andre’s ring, making her a woman with both a husband and a fiancé. She can’t bear to subject Roy to another document stating what she believes he already knows, but she also wonders if her refusal to move forward with the divorce papers is cowardice on her part. She thinks about how holidays are measuring sticks against which adults always seem to fall short. She compares the two rings on her hand and thinks also of Roy’s tooth that sits in her jewelry box.
Celestial’s comparison of marriage to the grafting of a limb onto a tree trunk again recalls the symbol of the hickory tree in the front yard, an image that recalls the relationship between Celestial and Andre, rather than Celestial and Roy. Her wearing Andre’s ring indicates that her response to his proposal was a yes. While a ring is a typical symbol of love and devotion, Celestial turns her thoughts to a more salient object in her marriage to Roy: his lost tooth that proved his devotion to her from the start.
Themes
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Celestial’s parents live in a mansion built after the Civil War. As a child, passing the house before it was theirs, Celestial worried it was haunted. Franklin told her it was haunted only by the ghost of history and he promised they’d fix it up and live there some day. The white family who lived there couldn’t bear to live in an all black part of town, and as such sold it when Franklin, having come into money from his invention, showed up with a briefcase full of cash.
The position of the Davenport house in a predominantly black neighborhood shows the family’s commitment to their culture and roots. The white family’s leaving, meanwhile, is an example of “white flight,” or the evacuation of white residents from a neighborhood that has come to be inhabited by a majority black community.
Themes
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Celestial reflects on Franklin’s dedication to his experiments and his stubborn opposition to her and Andre. While he had initially favored Dre for Celestial over Roy, he can’t support the way that Celestial has taken up with Andre while Roy is in jail. On Thanksgiving Day, they arrive at Celestial’s parents’ house carrying a bottle of scotch, though Celestial had promised to bring two desserts. Her father is putting up Christmas decorations while wearing a shirt that says, “ONLY IN ATLANTA,” an entrepreneurial venture Roy had attempted. Her father has four sets of wise men figurines, but he takes out only the black one, Balthazar. Uncle Banks is putting lights on the house. Franklin is less than welcoming to Andre.
Celestial knows that it will be difficult to share the news of her engagement with her father, who has shown more dedication to Roy’s incarceration than to Celestial’s romantic happiness. The fact that Mr. Davenport wears a shirt reminding everyone of Roy is no accident, proven by the cold way he receives Andre when they arrive. Celestial and Andre showing up with liquor rather than dessert is perhaps an attempt to make their announcement go down more easily.
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Related Quotes
As Andre and Celestial climb the stairs of the porch, Aunt Sylvia comes outside. Though technically not married to Uncle Banks, she had been matron of honor at Celestial’s wedding to Roy. Sylvia takes Dre inside and Celestial hangs back. Uncle Banks says he didn’t tell her parents about Roy, and Celestial thanks him for all his hard work. 
The fact that Uncle Banks and Aunt Sylvia are not officially married provides yet another example of the way a couple can choose to live in partnership. Sylvia shows warmth to Dre, knowing the way Celestial has struggled with her situation.
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Get the entire An American Marriage LitChart as a printable PDF.
They eat dinner at the well-worn heavy oak table, a gift to Celestial’s parents from her grandmother, and an heirloom that will eventually be passed down to Celestial herself. Celestial and Uncle Banks can’t eat because they both know the truth that hangs in the air.  Celestial knows that Uncle Banks deserves thanks and congratulations today for all he’s done.
While most of the furnishings in the Davenport household are of the finest quality, the well-loved table, where they gathers together to pray and eat, shows signs use and wear. The fact that they still use it evidences their commitment to family.
Themes
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For dessert, they have a blackberry jam cake that Gloria had made and soaked in rum, a treat she’d once given Franklin at the start of their courtship. Gloria can tell that Celestial has something to say, and when she serves the cake she tells her daughter, “Whatever it is, you know I’ll always be your mother.” When Roy had asked for this dessert as his groom’s cake at the rehearsal dinner, Gloria had pulled Celestial aside to tell her that she was happy as long as Celestial was happy. Celestial hopes for the same generosity today.
The cake is a symbol of love between Gloria and Franklin. Gloria also affirms her love and support for Celestial today just as she did years ago at her rehearsal dinner, assuring daughter that her primary interest is Celestial’s happiness.
Themes
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Celestial raises her glass in a toast to Uncle Banks, announcing that Roy will be released before Christmas. Sylvia, Uncle Banks, and Gloria celebrate, but Franklin says nothing. Andre stands to announce that he’s asked Celestial to marry him. Franklin asks her what she said, and Celestial says she said yes. Despite the difficulty of sharing this news, Celestial finds comfort in the truth being out in the open. Celestial tries to argue that the conditions of her parents’ marriage were also less than ideal, but her father counters that the situation was different.
Celestial toasts Uncle Banks first, not wanting to taint their celebration of his hard work, and also knowing that this is the less controversial of the pieces of news she has to share. Even before Andre shares that he and Celestial have become engaged though, Mr. Davenport sees the issues posed by Roy’s release because of Andre and Celestial’s relationship.
Themes
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Franklin chastises Andre for taking advantage of a situation where his friend Roy is being held as a hostage of the state. Gloria asks Franklin to apologize, arguing that they raised Celestial to know her own mind. Franklin says it’s not fair to punish Roy for being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time, but Sylvia changes the subject to say that they should all be focusing on the incredible work Banks put in to make this happen. Then she turns to Franklin and tells him it’s not his place to insert his opinion about who Celestial should be with.
Mr. Davenport shows no support of Celestial and Andre, instead focusing on their proposal being an additional wrong being done to Roy when he has already suffered so much. Sylvia, a source of strength and support for Celestial all her life, refocuses the attention onto the miracle that Banks has worked, while also chastising Franklin for thinking he has a say in who his daughter married, a responsibility he’s previously denied.
Themes
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