An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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An American Marriage: Part 3, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Celestial used to think she saw Roy around when he was locked up and she became accustomed to his ghost. On Christmas Eve, Celestial goes to work after sending Andre to Atlanta to talk to Roy. Her store is located in a high-end area of Atlanta, and her assistant Tamar has already arrived. Celestial regards Tamar as a movie version of herself, younger and more beautiful. Tamar makes miniature quilts for the poupées, but they don’t sell often because they’re so expensive. Tamar gave birth to a son a week before receiving her master’s degree, and Celestial notes that Tamar enjoys being “slightly to the left of respectability.”
Celestial’s doll store is a clear continuation of the plan she and Roy developed together. “Ghosts” of both Celestial and Roy exist in the store: Roy in the form of the poupées and Celestial in the form her assistant, a doppelganger for a younger Celestial. Tamar, though, has gone a slightly different path in life; while she, too, is growing an art career, she opted to have a baby just as she was finishing up school, a reversal of the decision Celestial made while she found herself pregnant in college.
Themes
Love and Marriage in Crisis Theme Icon
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The dolls remaining in the store are some of the less conventionally beautiful ones, some purposefully flawed because Celestial believes that children need something not quite perfect to treasure. Only one perfect poupée remains, which Tamar dresses as an angel and hangs from the ceiling. They open the store and many people shop, but few buy anything. Celestial sends Tamar home to be with her son, saying she can handle the store alone. She tells Tamar to come by that night for a holiday toast and hands her a holiday bonus.
Celestial remains committed to each of the dolls being one of a kind, even if that means having slight imperfections. While Roy had wanted the dolls meant for children to eventually be mass-produced, Celestial’s commitment to their being handmade is one way her realization of her dream has diverged from Roy’s plan.
Themes
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Celestial is almost ready to close the store several hours later when a well-dressed man walks in looking for a gift for his daughter for her birthday. He complains that the dolls all seem a little off. Celestial says they’re all one of a kind, and the man tells her she can save that lie for the white people. He asks about the angel hanging from the ceiling. Out of the corner of her eye, Celestial sees what she thinks is a ghost of Roy across the street. Celestial reverts her attention to the customer and begins to wrap up the angel doll.
Celestial believes she is seeing  another ghost-Roy across the street, but this will later be revealed to actually be Roy himself. The man’s joke about Celestial saving her theory about imperfect dolls for the white people echoes Olives earlier jab that white people are the only ones foolish enough to pay for Celestial’s dolls.
Themes
Parenthood as a Choice Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Effects of Incarceration Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
At the last moment, Celestial reopens the box and holds the doll to her chest. The customer asks if she’s okay and she says she’s not. She tells him that her husband is getting out of prison and adds, half-heartedly, that this is good news. He tells her that his marriage fell apart when he was away on business for just six months, and as such Celestial shouldn’t get her hopes up for an easy reunion. He asks for the doll but Celestial ushers him out and closes the store early.
Celestial declining to sell the doll at the last minute mirrors the way she couldn’t bring herself to seal the box containing the doll for the mayor earlier in the book. Both times the dolls are associated in her mind with Roy; sealing the doll in the box reminded her of Roy being locked in prison, while selling the doll would be akin to accepting that he is really no longer part of her life.
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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