An American Marriage


Tayari Jones

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on An American Marriage can help.

Everything you need
for every book you read.

"Sooo much more helpful than SparkNotes. The way the content is organized
and presented is seamlessly smooth, innovative, and comprehensive."
Get LitCharts A+

An American Marriage: Part 2, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

In a parallel flashback, Roy remembers the same night outside the restaurant, in which he stands memorizing Celestial’s face. She asks him if he wants to go to a bar where her roommate works so they can drink for free. Roy wants to tell her it isn’t a problem for him to pay for his drinks, but he agrees to go along and suggests they get a taxi. Celestial tells him he won’t get a taxi because of his skin color and the snow coming down. She pays for them to take the subway instead. Roy dislikes public transportation, seeing it as a sign of poverty. He asks Celestial how she can live up in New York, and she says she’s paying her dues.
Here we get Roy’s alternative perspective on the night, showing the way Celestial is willing to take charge of their plans. Despite her family’s wealth, she is living the life of an artist and, perhaps because of the financial safety net she has, is not self-conscious about suggesting a dive bar where they can drink for free. Roy, on the other hand, having come from nothing, is anxious to prove his worth, arguing that he can pay for his own drinks as well as a taxi.
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
Roy asks Celestial what she’s studying and she tells him about the dolls she makes. She says the company is called Babydolls and he tells her it sounds like a strip club, noting that he has a degree in marketing. He recommends the name Poupées, which is French for dolls. Celestial questions whether he knows French and mentions her Haitian college supervisor, giving Roy pause. Roy admires the snow as Celestial points out her apartment. Suddenly noticing something, she says “not again” and starts running down the street. When Roy follows her, he realizes they’re chasing a burglar. Celestial trips but Roy pushes ahead, catching the young man as he stumbles. The thief asks Roy what would happen if he had a gun and kicks Roy in the face hard enough to loosen a tooth.
When Celestial begins telling Roy about her art, he immediately involves himself by suggesting an alternate name. This foreshadows the ways in which he will later become involved with the business side of the company. Celestial subtly alludes to her affair with the professor here, though Roy will not understand what really happened for years. This scene also gives more background to the story of Roy’s lost tooth, underscoring it as a reminder of their early courtship and the lengths to which Roy would go to protect Celestial.
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
The thief gets away, and, instead of continuing the chase, Celestial stops to make sure Roy is okay. She tells him he is her hero and recommends that he go to the hospital, but he refuses. Instead, they go to her apartment and wait two hours for the police to show up. Later, while fitting Roy for a bridge, a dentist tells Roy that the tooth could have been saved if he’d gone straight to the hospital.
Roy’s giddiness at Celestial’s admiration and his refusal to take her advice causes him to lose his tooth. He has sacrificed for Celestial, but ultimately did not need to do so. The tooth—a symbol of their relationship—forebodes unnecessary pain.
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon