The hickory tree that stands between Celestial and Andre’s houses serves as a symbol of the long history between the two, as well as of the deep roots of the racial discrimination that continues to affect black communities. At the end of the book, Old Hickey is revealed to be at least 128 years old, having begun to grow not long after the end of the Civil War. As such, the tree has stood witness to racial injustices since the time of Reconstruction. When Mr. Davenport signs his house over to Celestial, he stipulates only that the tree cannot be cut down—suggesting his commitment to remembering the horrors of the past in the hope that they will not be repeated. Roy, newly-returned from prison and frustrated by what he interprets as Celestial’s lack of care for him, begins to chop at Old Hickey’s trunk with an ax and then slams his own head against its bark. This gesture is both an attack on the bond between Celestial and Andre and on the deep-seated racial prejudices that stole Roy’s life from him for five years. In the end of the book, the tree, at once a symbol of the love between Andre and Celestial and racial injustice, remains strong. That fact that it has stood guard over Celestial and Andre’s love, however, suggests that such relationships can ultimately be an antidote to hate.
Old Hickey Quotes in An American Marriage
Am I different? It has been close to three years, so I guess I have changed. Yesterday I sat under the hickory tree in the front yard. It’s the only place where I find rest and just feel fine. I know fine isn’t a lot, but it’s rare for me these days. Even when I’m happy, there is something in between me and whatever good news comes my way. It’s like eating a butterscotch still sealed in a wrapper. The tree is untouched by whatever worries we humans fret over. I think about how it was here before I was born and it will be here after we’re all gone. Maybe this should make me sad, but it doesn’t.
But he only turned toward Old Hickey. “It’s too much.” Then quickly—it must have been quickly—but I somehow took notice of each move, Roy tucked his lips against his teeth, gripped the tree like a brother, and then tipped his head back, presenting his face to the sky before driving his forehead against the ancient bark. The sound was muted, like the wet crack of an egg against the kitchen floor. He did it again, harder this time.