An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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An American Marriage: Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In a flashback to the Sunday before Olive’s funeral, Andre goes to visit Roy in prison while Celestial stays with Big Roy. There, Roy asks Andre to take his place carrying his mother’s casket at the funeral. They shake on it. When Roy points out Walter as his biological father, Andre is shocked. This surprises Roy, since it proves that Celestial kept his secret. Andre reflects on the complicated relationships both he and Roy have with their fathers. Andre’s father, Carlos, met another woman at a trade show and left Andre and his mother to start a new family with her. Before leaving the prison, Roy reminds Dre that Celestial is his wife, but then claims that he’s just kidding.
Roy’s friendship with Andre is solid enough at the point of Olive’s death that he asks his friend to stand in for him as pallbearer. Andre visiting Roy in jail on this trip, rather than Celestial, foreshadows the later decision to send Andre to break the news of their relationship. Though Andre’s genuine shock at the news of Roy’s biological father causes Roy to believe Celestial told no one what he shared with her, it is later revealed that Celestial told Olive before she died.
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
At Roy’s request, Celestial sings a hymn at Olive’s funeral. In the limo on the way to the cemetery, Celestial takes Andre’s hand, prompting Big Roy to ask that they not do that. He says he loved Olive in ways they can’t imagine. All three linger after Olive’s casket is lowered into the ground, and Celestial and Andre urge Big Roy to return to the church for the luncheon. Big Roy tells Celestial that she’ll need to be the one to care for and support Roy now, doing all that Olive used to do for him. Celestial says she understands, but Big Roy implies that she does not. Big Roy picks up a shovel to fill Olive’s grave with dirt himself. He tells Andre and Celestial to go and he’ll meet them later.
Big Roy senses that Celestial holding Andre’s hand in the limo might be a sign of something going on between them. This moment clarifies Celestial’s earlier statements to Roy about the extreme devotion Big Roy displayed at Olive’s funeral. It is clear through Big Roy’s insistence that Celestial doesn’t understand what taking care of someone really means that he suspects she does not have the same devotion to Roy that he had to Olive, nor that Olive had to her son.
Themes
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
In the limo, Celestial talks about how, although she hasn’t thought about or touched another man since Roy was put in jail, seeing Big Roy’s behavior made her realize she doesn’t know what it means to be truly committed to someone. She and Andre return to the church and eat the meal prepared by the congregation. They sense people talking about them and stay long enough to realize Big Roy isn’t going to return to the church. They move to a bar, where they drink screwdrivers out of plastic cups and sense the other patrons speculating about their relationship.
The start of Celestial and Andre’s romance becomes clear, revealed as something borne of grief and slow-burning desire. The disparity between Big Roy’s dedication to Olive and Celestial’s dedication to Roy displayed on this day causes Celestial to question her entire marriage, while the small town atmosphere of Eloe make Andre and Celestial feel conspicuous even before they cross any romantic lines.
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
Celestial tells Andre that Olive would hit her when she went too long without visiting Roy. She says that her face stung from that slap all through the funeral service. Andre tells Celestial she’s drunk and she reaches for his hand. He reminds her that everyone is watching them and asks for their check. Celestial complains of the burden of visiting Roy in prison, where she’s treated like a delusional victim who could do better.
Olive expressed her displeasure at Celestial’s level of commitment to Roy. With Olive gone, Celestial feels her slap as a visceral reminder of the increased level of responsibility falling on her now. Celestial shares with Andre the difficulty she has being the recipient of people’s pity when she visits the prison, but is unable to connect her own feelings to those that Roy may experience for the rest of his life when people learn he was once in jail.
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
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The two arrive at a hotel, where a woman refers to Andre and Celestial as newlyweds because of the way they hold one another. Celestial invites Andre into her room and, though he protests at first, he steps inside. They sit on the bed, looking at one another, before Dre moves closer and Celestial says they’ve always been together. They kiss, and Dre notes that their lives change in that moment.
Andre and Celestial’s physical behavior has betrayed their mutual desire to those around them, and in this moment they finally act on their feelings. Andre’s note that Celestial made the first move is a means to deflect some responsibility and perhaps assuage his guilt about the relationship.
Themes
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
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