An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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An American Marriage: Part 2, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Roy spends about thirty-six hours at Davina’s house, finally leaving when she has to go to work. Big Roy waits for his son on the front porch, asking if he’s alive when he finally returns. Roy wonders whether he’s cheating on Celestial or just his memories of her. The way Davina treated him helped to salvage his spirit. Big Roy tells Roy that he needs to be better about keeping in touch, considering all that’s happened. Roy apologizes, and Big Roy tells him that he needs to call Celestial today.
Roy soaks up all of the love and care Davina has to give him but fails to think about the fact that his father might be worrying about his not coming home, in an area where he’s experienced discrimination before and where crime has only gotten worse. Roy, still fixated on Celestial, fears the answer he’ll receive when he tries to find out if they are still married.
Themes
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
Andre calls Big Roy’s house and is surprised when Roy answers. When he says, “We weren’t expecting you for a few more days,” Roy bristles at the use of “we.” Andre tells Roy that he’s driving down in a couple days to pick him up. Big Roy tells Roy he better get to Atlanta himself to see if he’s still married. The phone rings again, but Roy knows it’s Celestial and doesn’t pick up.
Andre’s use of the word “we” indicates to Roy that Andre and Celestial are now a couple. Instead of waiting for Andre to come pick Roy up, Roy decides he better go talk to Celestial himself, hoping that he might have a better result if he communicates with her directly.
Themes
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Roy cleans up and changes his clothes with the intention of going to Atlanta. Big Roy tells his son he can take his car, since he can get rides from his friend Wickliffe. Big Roy makes them mediocre salmon croquettes for breakfast. Roy says, “Bon appétit,” and Big Roy says grace. He tells his son he needs a haircut before he goes and offers to cut it himself, reminding Roy that he used to cut hair on weekends when he was little.
Though Big Roy never cooked for himself while Olive was alive, he’s had to adapt to her absence, an adjustment similar to the way Roy may need to change his expectations of the way his life will be from this point on. Big Roy’s offer to cut his son’s hair foreshadows the business that father and son will open later in the book.
Themes
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Roy tells Big Roy about trading goods in prison. In an effort to get six dollars for a pear, he sold a garbage bag to another inmate, though he didn’t realize why the man wanted it. The man then used the garbage bag to hang himself, and when Roy tried to share the pear with Walter he refused, knowing the true cost of the fruit. Big Roy insist it was not Roy’s fault. The phone begins to ring again in Big Roy’s house, but neither man answers. Roy wants to see Celestial in person to talk to her. Big Roy offers his son money for the trip, but Roy declines.
Roy’s story underscores the desperation and horror of life in prison, while Big Roy’s response highlights his love and devotion to his son. Their continued refusal to answer the phone is prompted by Roy’s desire to talk to Celestial in person.
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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Big Roy reminds Roy about the account in his name that Olive opened when he was born and contributed to over the years. He looks for the bankbook in Olive’s dresser drawer and her scent floods him with memories. With all of the deposits and withdrawals over the years, Roy guesses he’ll have a little more than $187, enough to get him to Atlanta. On the bottom of the stack of papers, he finds the journal Mr. Fontenot had given him, on the last page of which he’d written, “Dear History, The world needs to get ready for Roy Othaniel Hamilton Jr.!”
Olive is able to provide for her son even in death. The message Roy finds inside is bittersweet, full of all that Roy believed was possible before his dreams were compromised by his wrongful imprisonment. 
Themes
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
Big Roy cuts his son’s hair. He tells Roy about courting his mother, and how ornery Roy was as a child. Saying Roy will always be his son, Big Roy asks if he ever felt like he didn’t have a father. Roy  can tell that Big Roy knows about Walter, and the latter admits that Olive told him and Celestial told her. On Celestial’s last visit before Olive died, she asked to be alone with her. When she left, Big Roy gave Olive some morphine and she told Big Roy that Othaniel was in prison with Roy. Two days later she gave up her fight. Roy wonders why Celestial would do such a thing and Big Roy says he has no idea.
Big Roy cutting his son’s hair echoes the way Celestial cut Andre’s hair before Roy’s trial, and also foreshadows the barbershop Big and Little Roy will later open together. Their bond is so strong that Roy can sense that Big Roy knows about Walter being his cellmate. Big Roy blames Celestial for Olive’s death because she gave up her grasp on life just after she received the news of Roy’s cellmate.
Themes
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon