Explain in what ways Scout and Jem made Mr. Cunningham stand in Atticus's shoes in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most obvious answer to this excellent question comes when Scout shames Walter Cunningham Sr. into aborting his plan to take Tom Robinson from the jail and hang him in Chapter 15. The Old Sarum bunch arrived at the jail, drunken and confident that their numbers would be satisfactory to handle the lone man looking after Tom: Atticus Finch. But the men's respect for Atticus was evident from the start: They called him "Mister" Finch, and they willingly obeyed Atticus's demand that they speak softly--in "near-whispers"--so as not to awaken the man they had come to murder. They understood that Atticus would defend his client both legally and physically, something few men--white or black--would be willing to do. But it took Scout's nervous but innocent small talk with Mr. Cunningham to remind the man that he, too, was a father. Scout used her own feet to help convince the lynch mob to reconsider its mission when she kicked a man who was trying to manhandle Jem.

I intended to kick his shin, but aimed too high.  (Scout, Chapter 15)

She then reminded Cunningham that Atticus had helped him before (with his "entailment" problems) and that Walter Jr. had been a guest in the Finch home. By appealing to Cunningham's humanity, Scout inadvertently led the man into stepping into Atticus's shoes: He saw that Atticus was merely defending his client, just as he had done with him. Cunningham must have also been reminded that, like Atticus, he was a father with a family to support; and Scout's conversation, which left many of the men with "their mouths half-open," finally convinced Walter Sr. that he was not a killer after all. Scout's actions also led to the lone holdout on the jury--another member of the Cunningham family--to see things from Atticus's perspective. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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