I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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Momma’s Store Symbol Analysis

Momma’s Store Symbol Icon

The store is at the center of Marguerite’s life in Arkansas. It is a figure for Momma’s prominence and strength—she is the only black storeowner in town. But the store also serves as a reminder of racial inequality. Momma is well-off—the store gives her enough financial security that she is able to lend money to Dr. Lincoln, a white dentist who doesn’t have enough funds to start his practice. However, when Momma asks Dr. Lincoln to pull some teeth for Marguerite, who is in a great deal of pain, he says he would rather put his hand in a dog’s mouth. So while the store is a place where black members of the community congregate, and it is a source of security and strength for Momma, it can only do so much. It is therefore a symbol of Momma’s strength in a world where that strength is necessary for survival.

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Momma’s Store Symbol Timeline in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The timeline below shows where the symbol Momma’s Store appears in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Race, Inequality, and Identity Theme Icon
Sex, Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Marguerite and Bailey’s grandmother, whom they call Momma, has owned a store for 25 years. The store is central to black life in Stamps. Everyone does their... (full context)
Chapter 3
Religion Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
Marguerite loves the store—it is her favorite place to be as a child. She is intelligent, and deft with... (full context)
Chapter 8
Race, Inequality, and Identity Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
...prime example of this—she is so frugal and diligent that she manages to keep the store open throughout the Great Depression. (full context)
Chapter 19
Race, Inequality, and Identity Theme Icon
Home and Displacement Theme Icon
Every black person in town is gathered in Momma’s store to listen to the radio coverage of Joe Louis’s fight. Joe Louis is a black... (full context)