In To Kill a Mockingbird, what reason does Walter give Atticus for not being able to pass first grade?
At the Finch's for lunch, what reason does Walter give Atticus for not being able to pass first grade?
Walter Cunningham tells Atticus that he has not been able to pass first grade yet because he has "had to stay out ever' spring an' help Papa with the choppin'". Walter thinks that things will be better this year, however, because "there's another'n at the house now that's field size" (Chapter 3).
The Cunninghams are poor but extremely hard-working, and very proud. As Scout explains to their new teacher, Miss Caroline, Walter never brings a lunch to school because there is not enough food at home to go around, and he cannot buy lunch because "he (has) probably never seen three quarters together at the same time in his life". Still, the Cunningham children are brought up with a fierce sense of dignity; "they don't have much, but they get along on it" (Chapter 2). The Cunninghams' sense of stubborn independence results in the reality that, in order to make ends meet as best they can, the children must help their father with the crops at a young age, at the expense of their own interests and education. The task of "choppin'", which must be done in the spring, has fallen upon the shoulders of young Walter for the past few years, as he is apparently the only child big enough to be able to do the job. As a result, Walter has had to miss much of the spring term at school, and has as yet been unable to pass first grade. This year, for the first time, the Cunningham child who comes after Walter in age is big enough to take his place working the fields with their father. Knowing this, Walter is hopeful that this time, he will be able to complete a full year of school and be passed on to the next grade level (Chapter 3).