How can I think outside the box to compare and contrast Walter Cunningham and Burris Ewell?

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mrwickline eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Walter Cunningham and Burris Ewell both come from poor families in Maycomb County. Both of the boys did not own shoes, or have a lunch to bring to school on the first day. However, Scout points out that Walter had on a clean shirt and mended overalls, while Burris Ewell is described as “the filthiest human being I had ever seen.” Scout’s opinion is strengthened when a tiny bug crawls out of Burris’ hair. The main difference between the Burris and Walter is their character. Walter Cunningham comes from a family with dignity and respect. When Miss Caroline offers to give Walter a quarter at lunch, he refuses to accept it because “Cunninghams never take anything they can’t pay back.” This portrays Walter as an honorable individual. Walter was raised with integrity, and displays his respect while eating at the table with Atticus by carrying on a pleasant conversation.

In regards to character, Burris Ewell and Walter are opposites. Aside from being filthy, Burris also lacks respect and integrity. Burris openly defies Miss Caroline when told that he will be reported to the principal by saying, “Report and be damned to ye! Ain't no snot-nosed slut of a schoolteacher ever born c'n make me do nothin'! You ain't makin' me go nowhere, missus.” Burris’ disrespectful, vulgar remarks make Miss Caroline cry. The only reason Burris showed up for the first day of school is because his truant officer made him. Harper Lee uses these contrasting characters to explain that wealth does not determine whether one has integrity, honor, and respect.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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