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.
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.