How do Jem and Scout treat Walter Cunningham differently in To Kill a Mockingbird?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem and Scout treat Walter Cunningham differently in that Jem feels sympathy for Walter and shows him kindness, where Scout is angry with Walter for making her "start off on the wrong foot" at school, attacking him outside. Jem understands that the Cunningham family is poor, and he invites Walter over for lunch.

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The way that Scout and Jem treat Walter Cunningham differently has a lot to do with their levels of maturity. Scout is angry at Walter for ruining her first day of school. She feels that it is Walter's fault that she started "off on the wrong foot," even though Walter...

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The way that Scout and Jem treat Walter Cunningham differently has a lot to do with their levels of maturity. Scout is angry at Walter for ruining her first day of school. She feels that it is Walter's fault that she started "off on the wrong foot," even though Walter really did not do anything wrong to her. That is why she feels justified in attacking him outside of school. At this point in the book, Scout is young, just six years old. She has yet to learn how to empathize and control her temper. In this way, she is acting like a typical self-absorbed little child.

Jem is older, at ten years old. He is able to see things from the perspective of others, unlike his little sister. Jem highly respects his father who has taught him many lessons on empathy. When he sees the way Scout has treated Walter, he tries to understand every side of the story. Because of Atticus's relationship with Mr. Cunningham, Jem knows about their family's poor finances. That is why he invites Walter over for lunch and treats him kindly. He also sees it as a way of making amends for Scout's poor behavior. Atticus has taught Jem how to treat everyone as an equal, and he takes this as an opportunity to do so with Walter.

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In chapter 3, Jem treats Walter Cunningham Jr. differently than Scout by exercising sympathy and hospitality towards him, while Scout is primarily focused on harming Walter for making her "start off on the wrong foot." At the beginning of the chapter, Scout proceeds to rub Walter's nose in the dirt before Jem intervenes and tells her to leave him alone. After forcing Scout to leave Walter alone, Jem recognizes that Atticus is friends with Walter's father and proceeds to invite him over for lunch. Jem demonstrates sympathy for Walter by offering him food since he had nothing to eat at school, which is a kind gesture. During their walk home, Jem makes pleasant conversation with Walter by briefly discussing Boo Radley and treats him with respect. Scout's comment illustrates Jem's courteous nature and reflects her prejudice when she says,

By the time we reached our front steps Walter had forgotten he was a Cunningham.

During lunch, Jem and Scout listen as Walter discusses crops with Atticus, and Walter proceeds to ask for some syrup. When Walter pours the syrup on his vegetables, Scout rudely comments on his strange eating habits, which embarrasses Walter and upsets Calpurnia, who chastises Scout in the kitchen. In the kitchen, Calpurnia refers to Walter Cunningham as their company, and Scout once again demonstrates her prejudice by commenting,

He ain’t company, Cal, he’s just a Cunningham-."

Following lunch, Jem continues to treat Walter as his equal and makes him feel comfortable by walking him back to school. Overall, Scout views Walter Cunningham as beneath her because he is a poor country boy from Old Sarum. She also resents Walter for getting her into trouble with Miss Caroline and embarrasses him during lunch. In contrast, Jem goes out of his way to make Walter feel comfortable and treats him with kindness and respect.

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Because Scout blames Walter Jr. for getting her in trouble with her new teacher, Miss Caroline, on the first day of first grade, she allows her flying fists to settle the dispute. Scout's quick temper and her urge to settle arguments by fighting are eventually quelled somewhat as she grows older, but she is still angry with Walter after Jem breaks up their fight on the schoolyard. Jem takes pity on Walter, in part because he is smaller than Scout, but also because

"Our daddy's a friend of your daddy's. Scout here, she's crazy--"

On their way to the Finch's house for lunch, "Jem made pleasant conversation" with Walter, "cordially" comparing stories about Boo Radley as they passed his house.

     By the time we reached our front steps Walter had forgotten he was a Cunningham.

Once inside, Atticus and Walter "talked together like two men, to the wonderment of Jem and me." Jem's behavior toward Walter stems from his understanding of the Cunningham family. He knows they are poor but honest, and he sees that the puny Walter is underfed and no match for Scout, who is big for her age. Jem is old enough to realize that inviting Walter home for lunch is a fair way of repaying him for Scout's unhospitable manners, and though the two boys will never be close friends, Jem walks with Walter back to school while Calpurnia finishes her scolding of Scout. 

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