An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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An American Marriage: Part 3, Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Roy wakes up to Celestial being his “Georgia girl” again. They wish each other a merry Christmas and he thinks about how he doesn’t have a gift for her. She says that his being safe is gift enough. All he wants for Christmas is his tooth, so she goes to her dresser and takes out the box holding the tooth, asking if he remembers that night. She tells him he rose to the occasion and he says he liked saving her. She says the thief could have killed Roy, but Roy says there’s no use worrying about things that didn’t happen—or things that did happen, for that matter, because today is a new day.
When Celestial finally procures the tooth, she and Roy recall how strong their bond once was. Roy’s insistence on taking on the role of protector for Celestial, despite her not being the type of woman who wants to be protected, shows how they remain somewhat incompatible. While they better see the danger of that night looking back, they also know that what matters is how they will move forward. Roy has insisted on this point all along, and it seems that Celestial has finally been convinced. 
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They make breakfast together and Roy notices the ruby shining on Celestial’s right hand. Celestial answers the phone and wishes her parents happy holidays, though she tells Roy she isn’t ready to bring anyone else into their situation yet, so they won’t go over to their house for dinner. Roy tells Celestial how Christmas is his favorite holiday. As a child Big Roy would receive only an apple, and so, when Roy was young, every Christmas morning he and his father would share an apple together. Celestial asks why he never told her that, and Roy says he didn’t want her feeling sorry for him when that was one of his favorite memories.
Roy notices the ring that Celestial is wearing, but doesn’t ask about it, afraid to break the brittle bond they’re beginning to rebuild. The Christmas memory Roy shares with Celestial is another example of a secret he has kept from her out of fear that she would judge the poverty in which he grew up.
Themes
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Celestial makes Roy toast in the same way Olive used to do it, which Roy recognizes as a gesture toward making him feel at home. They share an apple together. She says, “Bon appétit,” and Roy feels like they might actually be able to make up. He thinks about Big Roy, all alone on this day. Roy asks why Celestial told Olive about Walter being his cellmate, since Big Roy said the news had killed Olive. Celestial claims it didn’t happen that way, that Olive was struggling because she thought the pain medication would kill her faster and she wanted to stay alive for Roy. She says that when she shared the news with Olive, she’d said God was funny for sending Othaniel to the rescue. Big Roy had seen Olive as giving up at the news, but Celestial believed Olive was able to let go knowing her son was taken care of.
Roy appreciates Celestial’s attempts to make him feel comfortable. Celestial’s summation of Olive’s response to the news about Walter again reflects the ways in which one story can have two very different interpretations, neither of which is necessarily right or wrong. Celestial’s view of the situation presents Olive as a deeply-committed mother, who felt free to die and end her pain only when she knew that Roy had another parent in close proximity to care for him.
Themes
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The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
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While Celestial showers, Roy calls his father. He thinks Big Roy sounds sad, but his father says he just has some indigestion from eating a plate brought by one of the church ladies. Roy tells his father that it’s okay to like the woman, and Big Roy jokes that his son is trying to marry him off so he won’t have to return home to take care of him. Next, Roy phones Davina to wish her a merry Christmas. She asks him if what’s between them is something or nothing. Roy answers, “Something?” He tells her that he found out he’s still married, and she responds that she didn’t ask about that. He confirms that their relationship is something, but he can’t figure out what.
Big Roy hides his emotions as he believes men should, a trait he passed down to Roy. Roy gives his father permission to like another woman in Olive’s absence, but Big Roy’s devotion to Olive has not yet subsided. This refusal on Big Roy’s part contrasts with the way Celestial allowed herself to explore a romance with Andre while Roy was incarcerated. Roy’s call to Davina, meanwhile, at a moment when he thinks he might still save his marriage, reflects that he may not be as committed as he appears.
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Celestial emerges from the bathroom in a negligée. She lies on the bed and calls Roy to her. He tells her he wants to be real with her, and he tells her that when he was home in Eloe he slept with a woman. Celestial says she’s not mad because she’s not a hypocrite. He asks how she couldn’t care, and she says she’s trying to be an adult. He tells her he called Davina a few minutes ago and that it wasn’t purely sexual. Davina had helped him figure out who he was post-prison. Celestial kisses his body but Roy tells her she doesn’t have to. Though she feels rigid under his hands, she offers herself, trying to make things right.
Celestial’s attempt at intimacy reflects the genuine effort on her part to make things work. When Celestial seems to brush off Roy’s affair, Roy seems to want Celestial to be more upset as evidence of her love for him. Understanding that to chastise Roy for his actions would be hypocritical, Celestial moves forward to see if they still have the same sexual attraction to one another, despite her clear nerves and discomfort.
Themes
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In prison, Olive had visited every weekend. Once she seemed different, probably aware of the cancer but not ready to tell Roy yet. She told him she knew the truth about his innocence, but wanted to hear from his own mouth that he didn’t do it. He feels deeply offended but tells her he’s not a rapist and that he doesn’t want to talk anymore. She tells him she believes him, but he thinks only about all the things he didn’t like about her in that moment.
In sensing Celestial’s hesitancy to make love, Roy is reminded of the way that Olive asked for a confirmation that her son didn’t do the crime of which he was accused. In this moment, he feels the same sense of uncertainty and fear radiating from Celestial, their dynamic changed because of both his threat the night before and Celestial’s uncertainty about Roy after this much time apart.
Themes
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Back in the bedroom, Celestial pulls Roy to her, telling him she wants him to be okay. He thinks about how he couldn’t prove his accuser wrong, and Celestial tells him not to worry about that because the wrongful accusation and its repercussions are over. Roy tells her nothing is ever over, and that he can feel her fear of him when he touches her. She says she’s scared to start over. He promises her he will never force himself on a woman, even if Celestial asked him to. He kisses her ring finger, absent of his ring, and she tells him she tried. He tells her to sleep, but neither can close their eyes against all that darkness. 
Celestial does not tell Roy that she wants him or that she needs him, only that she wants him to be okay. In this statement, Roy understands what is motivating Celestial’s actions. When he calls out the fear he can sense in her, Celestial claims it’s only a fear of starting over, but Roy knows it’s more than that. Roy and Celestial, while close to each another physically, can see that the distance between them once and for all.
Themes
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Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon