An American Marriage

by

Tayari Jones

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An American Marriage: Part 3, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Roy wakes up the next morning, still with the dolls staring at him, though they seem less mocking now. Celestial asks if he’s hungry and he says he will be after bathing. Celestial has put his bag of clothes in the bathroom, which he sees as a sign of hope. He roots around in the cabinets, trying to find signs of Andre, but it’s clear he doesn’t live there. He scrubs himself.
A night’s sleep has softened the glare of the dolls, a symbol of the past and the disconnect Roy and Celestial have experienced. Roy naively reads Celestial’s every gesture as a sign that she wants to remain married to him and that she hasn’t fully committed herself to Andre.
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Roy joins Celestial in the kitchen. She prepares breakfast for them and Roy asks that they say grace. He asks that their marriage be blessed and Celestial responds, “Bon appétit.” They eat, but Roy can’t taste anything. Celestial says she has to go to work, but Roy wants to talk before Andre returns home. Celestial says he already knows everything, but Roy protests that he knows what happened, but not what Celestial wants moving forward. He asks if he can gather his things, and Celestial replies that she donated his clothes and boxed up the rest of his belongings in the garage. She asks if he needs anything in particular and Roy thinks that all he wants is his tooth, but that he doesn’t want to tell Celestial because she’ll think he’s being sentimental.
Celestial continues her habit of saying “Bon appétit” before each meal. Roy’s commitment to finding his tooth represents his desire to reclaim a symbol of his relationship with Celestial and the sacrifice he once made for her. Additionally, his body is perhaps the one thing that has not been taken away from him in this ordeal. 
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Related Quotes
Roy watches Celestial do the dishes and can tell by the set of her shoulders that she’s decided what will happen between them, in the same way that the jury decided Roy’s fate. Roy reflects that he has never before violated a woman, yet that the thought had crossed his mind for an instant the night before; he sees this as a mark of what prison did to him. Roy goes to the garage, where he sees the boxes labeled “Roy H., Misc.” The impersonal nature of the label makes him think of this bag of belongings returned to him when he left jail. He drags the boxes out under Old Hickey to go through them. Celestial watches from inside.
Roy feels though his life is out of his control, identifying the way that Celestial now has the power in their marriage much like the state had the power to put him away and then to release him. The deep, lasting effect of incarceration is clear in Roy’s guilt over momentarily thinking he could take advantage of Celestial if he wanted to.
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Roy finds a letter from his mother and sits down to read it. Olive tells him that she’s put this in a letter because he won’t like what she has to say. She tells him she’s proud of him, and that she’s happy he’s found someone to marry. She asks if Roy is sure Celestial is the right woman for him, however, and requests that he and Celestial visit so she and Big Roy can meet her before he makes his decision. She tells him she’s had a dream that has caused her to worry about him.
The letter from Olive reveals that all of Celestial’s concerns about Roy’s mother not liking her were warranted. Olive was convinced that Celestial was too different from Roy for them to be happily married. She thought Celestial seemed like the type of woman Roy thought he should be with, rather than a woman he knew he would be happy with. Though Olive doesn’t tell Roy what her premonition is, it’s worth noting that both Olive and Celestial have intuitive visions that prove true in during the novel.
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Olive had tried to save Roy, but he wonders from what. Having not found the tooth in any of the boxes, he believes it must be lost. He spots his fancy tennis racket in the garage and calls out, saying that Celestial is not the only terrible person. He mimes a backhand and accidentally hits Celestial’s car. Having hit it once though, he continues. Celestial emerges to ask if he’s okay and Roy asks how he could be okay. She asks what he wants her to do and he suggests she spend some time in prison to understand where he’s coming from. He continues beating the car with the tennis racket, but he doesn’t do much damage. He notices an ax on the wall and he uses it to break the windows of the car. Celestial repeatedly silences the car alarm.
Roy saw the tooth as a symbol of his relationship with Celestial and the way he protected her, and as such is angry upon thinking that she threw it away a thought. An accidental act of aggression prompts Roy to let out some of his anger at the situation and the way he feels he is being misunderstood by Celestial. Celestial’s silencing the alarm suggest she does not want to get the police involved.
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Roy approaches Celestial and he asks if she thinks he’s dangerous now. He asks Celestial if she cares for him and promises to leave her life forever if she doesn’t. She responds that Andre should be home any minute, and Roy says he didn’t ask about Andre. She refuses to say whether she loves Roy or not and he bounds across the yard. He touches the ax to the wood of Old Hickey, thinking about how it bears nothing of use and that Celestial and maybe Andre are the only ones who could love such a tree. He begins to chop at the tree, asking Celestial to speak up to tell him if she loves him or not.
Celestial remains cool-headed despite the volatility of the situation, more concerned with not drawing the attention of the neighbors than she is with calming Roy down or protecting herself. Celestial has avoided most of Roy’s questions about whether or not she still loves him, and his frustration at this causes him to take action to force her to respond. Roy notably takes his anger out on the tree that has always been important to Celestial and Andre, and as such serves as a symbol of their relationship.
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