An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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An American Marriage: Part 3, Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Celestial wonders why she left Roy and Andre outside. By the time she gets to the window, the men are wrestling each other on the lawn. She worries Roy will kill Andre and she emerges, shouting, “November 17!” Roy pauses but says that it’s too late for safe words. Celestial threatens to call the police. Roy asks if she’d really do that and tells her to go ahead. Andre begs her not to and she puts the phone down. Celestial goes to look at Andre’s injured eye and Roy draws attention to the fact that he stopped short of kicking Andre. Celestial asks him to look at what he did do, and Roy asks her the same question.
Celestial attempts to use their safe word to stop the two men fighting, but the word lacks power now that so many promises she and Roy made to each another have been broken. Celestial’s threat to call the police is an extreme one that she immediately regrets, realizing that none of them want Roy to suffer more. Roy wants credit here for not going so far as to permanently injure or kill Andre, showing a desperate attempt to refocus the severity of his actions.
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The police arrive anyway and ask Celestial if everything is all right. Celestial begs them not to hurt Roy and the cop asks who the men are. She refers to them as her husband and her neighbor, saying they had an accident but all is fine now. After the police leave, Roy tells Celestial that he’s hurting all over. She asks if he needs to go to the hospital and he says that he needs to sleep in his own bed. Roy says it’s all too much and bangs his head against the trunk of Old Hickey. Celestial blocks him from doing it again. He asks how all of this happened and what Andre and Celestial want him to do.
Roy’s fear and desperation, especially at the threat of returning to jail, are evidenced by the way he bashes his head into the tree, a symbol both of Andre and Celestial’s love and the history of oppression in this area. At a loss, Roy asks for an answer about what he can do, reflecting that he has little control over his own life anymore.
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Related Quotes
Andre tells Roy they’ll help him get set up and presents the option of Roy staying at Andre’s house, which Roy refuses. Celestial thinks about how before Roy returned he had seemed more like an idea than a real person for the last two years. Celestial asks Roy if he would have waited on her for five years and Roy says this wouldn’t have happened to Celestial in the first place. He tells Celestial that all he has to offer her is himself, which is better than he had for her a year ago. He asks Dre what he has to say for himself, and Dre says that Celestial already knows how he feels. He adds that there was a moment when they could have talked, but Roy opted to fight instead.
Andre again seeks to reassure Roy, offering to let him stay in Andre’s house, but, as Celestial predicted, this is insulting to Roy. While Celestial claimed to think of Roy every day, she realizes now that she had allowed Roy to become just a memory. Roy continues to try to wrap his mind around the situation but Dre refuses to answer his questions, reflecting the seemingly irreparable break in their relationship created by the fight.
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Roy asks if Celestial has anything else to say. She thinks about Big Roy at Olive’s funeral, and how that taught her about what true love was. Roy asks if this was a crime of passion or convenience, and Celestial thinks about how desire doesn’t work the way it did when she was younger. Her love for Andre is everyday, but significant. Roy asks how they ended up here, and Andre tells Celestial not to let Roy pressure her. He returns to his own house, warning Celestial that Roy might have a concussion, so she shouldn’t let him fall asleep.
Celestial reflects again on Big Roy’s dedication to Olive, and how her dedication to Roy does not compare and never has. Celestial’s earlier concerns about her love for Andre being a matter of convenience rather than passion come to life again when Roy suggests the same, but Andre, assured of his place in Celestial’s heart, steps away from the argument. His mention of the concussion betrays continued care for Roy despite all that has happened.
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Get the entire An American Marriage LitChart as a printable PDF.
Celestial cleans Roy’s wounds. He refuses to go to the hospital, saying he knows Celestial can care for him. She asks what he was looking for in the boxes, and he admits he was looking for his tooth. She says she still has it and Roy says that’s because she loves him. She struggles to keep him awake and Roy says that would be a horrible tragedy—to be released from prison, win his wife back, and die in his sleep. He asks if he has actually won her back, but she doesn’t answer. 
Celestial’s caring for Roy’s wounds shows her continued concern and love for him as a friend, even if that’s not what Roy wants. When Celestial gives Roy his tooth back, he again reads this as a sign that she loves him and always has, though Celestial refuses to confirm his assumption.
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