To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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In Chapter 3 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what lesson does Calpurnia try to teach Scout about Walter?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Chapter 3, Walter Cunningham Jr. has dinner with the Finch family, and Scout is disgusted when he pours syrup all over his meal. Scout embarrasses Walter at the dinner table by rudely asking him what the "sam hill" he is doing. Calpurnia then requests Scout's presence in the kitchen and proceeds to reprimand Scout for her rude behavior. Calpurnia tells Scout that she has no right to contradict Walter for his eating habits and teaches Scout a lesson in respect. Cal explains to Scout that Walter is considered her company and she needs to treat him with the utmost respect. Cal tells Scout that it doesn't matter if her family is considered "better" than the Cunninghams; Scout needs to treat Walter courteously and equally. Cal also warns Scout not to act "high and mighty" around her guests by disgracing them, or she will have to eat in the kitchen. Calpurnia essentially teaches Scout a lesson in manners, respect, and equality. She encourages Scout to view Walter as an equal and treat him the same way she would want to be treated. 

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renelane eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Calpurnia tries to teach Scout that Walter was a guest in her home, and just because he is of a lower class, he is not to be treated as such. Calpurnia wants to make it known that a guest is to be treated cordially no matter what their social or economic class, and it is up to the host to make them comfortable.Calpurnia lets Scout know that it is wrong to try to point out a guest's behavior as inappropriate. This is evident when Walter pours syrup all over his lunch, and Scout embarrasses him by laughing out loud. Scout does not understand why it is not acceptable, as it is just "Walter" and he is a "Cunningham". Calpurnia tells her she was the one in the wrong, not Walter.Scout is punished for being impolite and is kept in the kitchen for the remainder of the meal.

Scout later complains to Atticus of Calpurnia's grievous error in punishing her, but Atticus not only supports Calpurnia, but reinforces the lesson as well.

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