How could the parenting styles of Atticus Finch, Walter Cunningham, and Bob Ewell be evaluated, including three quotations per character that provide supporting evidence of their parenting styles?...

How could the parenting styles of Atticus Finch, Walter Cunningham, and Bob Ewell be evaluated, including three quotations per character that provide supporting evidence of their parenting styles? Also, what does Harper Lee suggest regarding the significance of a father's parenting style and how it affects his children?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus is a morally upright individual who teaches his children numerous important life lessons and leads by example. Atticus shows interest in Jem and Scout's feelings, and in Chapter 3, Atticus is quick to notice that something is bothering Scout. Scout laments her rough first day of school and Atticus teaches her an important lesson on perspective. He says,

"if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—" (Lee 39).

Atticus continually encourages his children to maintain self-control and engage in respectful behaviors throughout the novel. In Chapter 9, Scout asks her father if he defends "niggers." Atticus explains to his daughter that he will be defending Tom Robinson and urges Scout to keep her cool if anyone attempts to provoke her. He says,

"You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thing for me if you will: you just hold your head high and keep those fists down" (Lee 101).

Atticus never lets an opportunity to share advice and expose his children to experiences that will aid in their moral development pass.

In Chapter 11, he makes Jem read to Mrs. Dubose as a punishment for ruining her camellia bushes. At the end of the chapter, Mrs. Dubose passes away, and Atticus explains to his children that she suffered from a chronic illness and was addicted to morphine. Mrs. Dubose successfully conquered her morphine addiction, and Atticus tells his children,

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand" (Lee 149).

Similar to Atticus, Walter Cunningham is a respectable individual with integrity. His son, Walter Jr., shares his father's ethical disposition. In Chapter 2, Walter Cunningham Jr. refuses to except a quarter from Miss Caroline for lunch and Scout attempts to defend his character. Scout comments,

"The Cunninghams never took anything they can't pay back—no church baskets, no scrip stamps. They never took anything off of anybody, they get along on what they have. They don't have much, but they get along on it" (Lee 26).

Unlike Atticus, Walter Cunningham is a poor farmer who struggles to make ends meet. Walter Cunningham needs his son to help him on the farm, which is the reason why Walter Jr. cannot excel at school. Although Walter is not "book smart," he is a good worker just like his father. Walter Jr. tells Atticus,

"Reason I can't pass the first grade, Mr. Finch, is I've had to stay out ever' spring an' help Papa with the choppin', but there's another'n at the house now that's field size" (Lee 32).

Despite Walter Cunningham Sr.'s pecuniary issues, the community of Maycomb trusts him. The Cunninghams' reputation precedes them, and Atticus comments on their loyalty. He tells Scout,

"...the Cunninghams hadn't taken anything from or off of anybody since they migrated to the New World. He said the other thing about them was, once you earned their respect they were for you tooth and nail" (Lee 298).

Bob Ewell lacks integrity, character, and respect. He is viewed with contempt by the citizens of Maycomb and is a notorious alcoholic. His children, Burris and Mayella, act similar to their father, and both lack a moral compass. In Chapter 3, Burris displays his negative attitude and Scout attempts to explain his background to Miss Caroline. Scout says,

"Ain't got no mother...and their paw's right contentious" (Lee 36).

Later on in Chapter 3, Atticus explains to his daughter how Bob's alcoholism negatively affects his family. Atticus says,

"and it's certainly bad, but when a man spends his relief checks on green whiskey his children have a way of crying from hunger pains" (Lee 41).

In Chapter 19, Tom Robinson is on the witness stand and tells the court that Mayella kissed him on the cheek. Tom says that Mayella told him that she had never kissed a grown man before. Tom comments,

"She says what her papa do to her don't count" (Lee 260).

Tom's testimony suggests that Bob Ewell sexually assaults his daughter, which is possibly the worst thing a parent could do to their child.

Harper Lee suggests that a father's influence has a significant effect on the character of his children. Scout and Jem look up to their father and both children develop into morally upright, tolerant individuals. Walter shares many of his father's character traits and is a quiet, respectful boy who values hard work. Burris and Mayella both are disrespectful, terrible individuals. They lack character just like their father because they were raised in an abusive home without a positive role model. A caring father with good morals will have a positive influence on his children, while an immoral father with many issues will negatively impact the lives of his children.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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