It should be easy for 21st century readers to recognize the hardships that children faced during the Great Depression. The school scenes with Scout's classmates probably best illustrate the poverty and hunger that many children faced. Walter Cunningham Jr. is malnourished, suffering from hookworm and barefoot; his family can't afford food, doctors or shoes. "...the filthiest human I had ever seen," Burris Ewell is infested with lice and is generally rude, crude and socially unacceptable. Little Chuck Little "didn't know where his next meal was coming from," but Scout considers him a true "gentleman" after he stands up to Burris and consoles Miss Caroline. Most of the children bring their own meager lunches to school since they can't afford the 25 cent meal available in the lunchroom. Burris lives in a rundown house adjacent to the dump (where he spends most of his free time) and chooses to attend school only on the first day; father Bob doesn't believe his children need an education. Walter lives in the rural Old Sarum area far from town and has never spent an entire year in school since he is needed to work on the family farm. Many of the other children have repeated the first grade, but at least they are offered the opportunity: Scout's school is segregated, and it can be assumed that Maycomb's black children have no school to attend at all (no black school is mentioned in the novel). Scout has already learned that few Negroes can read, and most of the black children accompany their parents to the fields.
Though Atticus is one of the most respected men in town, he has not become wealthy as the town's best attorney. He is forced to accept payment for his services in barter, and Scout rarely mentions any extravagances she and Jem enjoy. Unlike many of their classmates, they are well-fed and are properly looked after by Calpurnia when Atticus is not at home but the children have never seen outside of Maycomb County: The town has no theatre and
... there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with. (Chapter 1)