How does the behavior of the school children in To Kill a Mockingbird depict parental influence?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During lunchtime, Miss Caroline notices Walter Cunningham Jr. doesn't have a lunch and offers to lend him a quarter to buy one. Walter Cunningham timidly refuses Miss Caroline's quarter. Miss Caroline, unfamiliar with Walter's family background, offers him the quarter again. Again, Walter refuses to accept the quarter. Scout gives insight into why Walter will not accept the quarter by saying,

"The Cunninghams never took anything they can’t pay back—no church baskets, and no scrip stamps. They never took anything off of anybody, they get along on what they have" (Lee 14).

Walter's parents are self-reliant and have integrity. He is influenced by their moral character and does not accept Miss Caroline's quarter because he knows he cannot pay her back.

In Chapter 3, a small bug crawls out of Burris Ewell's hair, and Miss Caroline tells him to bathe before he comes back to school tomorrow. Burris rudely responds by saying, "You ain’t sendin’ me home, missus. I was on the verge of leavin’ — I done done my time for this year" (Lee 18). One of Scout's classmates explains to Miss Caroline that Burris' father is contentious and doesn't care if he attends school or not. When Miss Caroline asks Burris to sit down, he says, "You try and make me, missus" (Lee 18). Burris then proceeds to cuss at Miss Caroline, calling her a "snot-nosed slut of a schoolteacher." Burris' disrespectful behavior is similar to his father's. Bob Ewell is the most despicable citizen in Maycomb and Burris is greatly influenced by his father's negative personality. Burris is rude and offensive just like his father.

Both Walter and Burris are products of their environment and are greatly influenced by their parents. Like his father, Walter has integrity; Burris is a disrespectful individual like Bob Ewell.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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