Contrast the differences in To Kill a Mockingbird on how Jem and Scout treat Walter. What does this show about the differences between them at this point in the novel?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The four years difference between Scout and Jem is certainly apparent in their behaviors. After Scout has been reprimanded by Miss Caroline for explaining to her that Walter does not want to take the quarter he has been offered by her because she has "shamed" him since there is no way he can repay this quarter since "He's a Cunningham." Naively, Scout assumes that Miss Caroline understands what she means; however, the teacher, who is from another part of the state, does not understand Scout's inferences. Instead, she perceives Scout as insolent and punishes her, humiliating Scout before her classmates, who break into "a storm of laughter."

Once outside at lunchtime, Scout quickly seeks revenge against Walter, knocking him down and rubbing his nose in the dirt. But, Jem comes by and tells her to stop, observing the unfairness of her attack, "You're bigger than he is." Scout retorts, "He's as old as you, nearly....He made me start off on the wrong foot." Then, when Scout explains the circumstances of her rage, Jem, much like Atticus would do, asks him if his father is Mr. Walter Cunningham from Old Sarum and generously invites Walter to have lunch with them, explaining,

"Our daddy's a friend of your daddy's. Scout here, she's crazy--she won't fight you any more."

Certainly, Jem is more mature and diplomatic than Scout, and of a less belligerent nature than she. For instance, Scout indelicately criticizes Walter's use of syrup on his food, and she contradicts Calpurnia who scolds her, saying that she should treat company well. "He ain't company, Cal, he's just a Cunningham." After she leaves to return to school she vows retaliation upon Calpurnia.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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