How does Scout solve her problem with Walter Cunningham Jr. in chapter 3 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Scout has had a rough morning on her very first day of school. She has been reprimanded by Miss Caroline for writing cursive instead of printing; she has been told that Atticus is improperly teaching her; and she has gotten in trouble for trying to defend Walter Cunningham Jr. because he had no lunch money. To her amusement, she was then "whipped" by Miss Caroline, who lightly tapped her hands with a ruler before ordering Scout to stand in the corner. Scout blamed Walter for her predicament, and she decided to solve the problem the best way she knew how--with her fists. During the children's break for lunch, she proceeded to rub "his nose in the dirt" in the schoolyard.

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Scout's first day of school is portrayed in chapter two. She is very excited for it, but it doesn't turn out the way she had hoped. First, her teacher is disappointed that Scout is a fluent reader. She is told not to let her dad teach her to read anymore, which puts a cramp in her bonding time with her father in the evenings when they read the newspaper together.

If that wasn't bad enough, Scout next tries to help her teacher understand why Walter Cunningham Jr. won't accept her quarter for lunch. Miss Caroline says that Scout is starting out on the wrong foot by telling her about the Cunninghams. Scout is rewarded with some slaps on the hand and is then sent to the corner.

In an effort to get back at little Walter Cunningham for not explaining himself to the teacher, thereby making Scout do it, she decides to solve her problem by rubbing his nose in the dirt. She explains as follows:

"Catching Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard gave me some pleasure, but when I was rubbing his nose in the dirt Jem came by and told me to stop" (22).

For Scout, this is the perfect way to solve her problem—attack the source. Fortunately, Jem steps in and invites Walter over for lunch in an effort to make peace. If Jem had not stepped in, there's no telling how much of a lesson Scout would have taught poor Walter Cunningham Jr.


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