When Marguerite and her brother, Bailey, first come to Stamps to live with her grandma, she learns a lesson about cleanliness. Momma places a premium on staying clean. According to Marguerite, one of her commandants is “Thou shall not be dirty.” Momma teaches Marguerite and Bailey this lesson in a rather severe manner. Even during the “bitterest winter” night, Momma would compel her grandchildren to go to the well and wash themselves in the freezing water.
Back in the house, after Marguerite and Bailey had gone to bed, Momma would pull the blankets off them and inspect their feet. If they weren’t spotless, Momma would punish them further with a nearby switch.
Another lesson that Marguerite learns from the people in Stamps concerns racism. She learns that white people and Black people receive starkly different treatment in the South. Stamps teaches Marguerite that white people are separate and foreign to such an extent that they might as well be aliens or not folks at all.
In Stamps, Marguerite also learns about the privileges that white people possess. “They took liberties in my Store that I would never dare,” she says. This ties into another lesson that Marguerite learns in Stamps: a Black person should try to say as little as possible to a white person.
Finally, the lesson about life that Marguerite explicitly says she learns from the people of Stamps relates to the terrible abuse that she suffered in St. Louis. After her ordeal in the big city, Marguerite comes to view Stamps differently. “The resignation of its inhabitants encouraged me to relax,” she says. “Their decision to be satisfied with life’s inequities was a lesson for me.” Marguerite's wording might strike some as problematic, but maybe Marguerite is trying to say that the people of Stamps taught her something about how to accept and deal with pain.