An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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An American Marriage: Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
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 all the time that Roy’s has been on hold. He tells Roy to think only of the future, rather than the past he left behind. Roy thinks back on how his life was perfectly set up before his sentence with family, work, and home, but Walter recommends Roy think of the world like a newborn baby instead. Roy knows he won’t receive a formal apology for the wrongful conviction, but he’s surprised that he’s not even allowed to exit through the front door of the prison.
Walter’s words of wisdom indicate that Roy shouldn’t count on anything to be the same as before he went into prison, instead lowering his expectations and encouraging him to experience the world as brand new in order to avoid disappointment. The fact that Roy’s exoneration is given little attention by the prison, implies how common the situation might be.
Themes
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
When Roy is released, Big Roy meets him in the parking lot. As a young man, Big Roy had told Roy not to call him if he got arrested, but that was when they thought being arrested had something to do with being guilty. Roy reflects on the woman who accused him, knowing someone attacked her, but knowing it wasn’t him. He wonders if she or anyone he knew before would recognize him now.
Both Big Roy and Roy have realized that guilt and incarceration are not necessarily related. Roy is able to feel pity for the woman who was attacked because he doesn’t question that part of her story, showing the strength of his empathy even when she has so badly wronged him.
Themes
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Big Roy tells Roy that he’s early, having been released five days ahead of schedule, and Roy says that Big Roy is the one who told him five minutes early is late. Big Roy 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 when Roy will visit Celestial, and Roy says in a couple days, though she doesn’t know his date of release had been moved up. When Big Roy asks if Roy knows for sure Celestial is still his wife, Roy replies that he thinks it must mean something that she hasn’t divorced him.
Big Roy’s first thought is for father and son to visit Olive’s grave, again showing her devotion to his wife, but Roy is overwhelmed by being released. Big Roy implies that he knows that something has been going on between Celestial and Andre—or at least that things remain unclear between Celestial an Roy—in his question about whether Celestial is still Roy’s wife.
Themes
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
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 looked out for him, and Big Roy expresses his thanks for anyone who helped Roy. Big Roy tells his son that crime in Eloe has been bad. Someone tried to steal his car, but his neighbor Wickliffe ran the thief off with a pistol.
Big Roy mentioning Andre’s presence at the funeral hints at his relationship with Celestial. Roy keeps Walter’s true identity secret from his father, perhaps to protect his feelings, not knowing that Big Roy is already aware.
Themes
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
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When they arrive home, everything is the same as before Roy went into jail. The house smells freshly cleaned and Big Roy tells Roy that the ladies from church came to prepare the house for his homecoming. Roy asks if there’s any church lady in particular, meaning a romantic interest for Big Roy, but Big Roy says it’s too soon for that. Big Roy tells him some essentials are 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 the church ladies often served for funerals, balancing their plates on their laps 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. They go to bed at seven o’clock.
While much might have changed for Roy since he was imprisoned, his father’s house remains the same, granting him a gentle re-entry into regular life. He reflects on how, despite his father-son relationship with Walter, he only calls Big Roy “Daddy”—a term of endearment he knows would have meant a lot to Walter but that Roy denied him, perhaps as punishment for his abandonment. The meal prepared by the church ladies resembling that served at a funeral luncheon reflects how Roy’s old life has died and he must start anew now.
Themes
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Every night, Roy chants Celestial’s name like a plea. He thinks of her vision board that held pictures of art in the Smithsonian, a cottage on Amelia Island, and an image of Earth from space. The board held no engagement ring or wedding dress. Roy, though, pictured two kids, a boy named Trey and a girl. A year earlier Roy destroyed all of Celestial’s letters, except for the letter where she ended the marriage. He takes out the letter to read it again, looking for hope.
Roy hopes Celestial will take him back while simultaneously thinking about how different their dreams were: his mostly focused on family while hers centered on her artistic career and the larger world. His destruction of their letters except the one in which  Celestial ended the marriage reflects that this is the only letter that matters; all their good times are no longer enough to keep the marriage alive.
Themes
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