In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, how does Jem treat Walter?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee emphasizes many important lessons for the Finch children.  One of themes of the story advances the idea of respecting other people regardless of their color or economical status.  That is the code by which Atticus Finch lives.  

In the third chapter, Scout finds Walter Cunningham and begins to beat him up. Although Walter was innocent, Scout believes that she has to defend him with Miss Caroline who was new to Maycomb; therefore, when the teacher punishes Scout for interfering, Scout lashes out at Walter.  Jem sees Scout fighting with Walter and stops it.

Because of the difference in their ages, Jem often has to set the example for Scout.  Both Scout and Jem know that Atticus has a relationship with Mr. Cunningham through his work.  Jem believes that Atticus would be angry if he knew that Scout had beaten up Walter.  Since Walter does not have a lunch, Jem invites him home to bridge the gap between Scout’s misplaced anger and Walter’s lack of parental support.

…Jem put out his hand and stopped me. He examined Walter with an air of speculation. “Your daddy Mr. Walter Cunningham from Old Sarum?” he asked, and Walter nodded.  Jem suddenly grinned at him. “Come on home to dinner with us, Walter,” he said.  “We’d be glad to have you.” Jem said, “Our daddy’s a friend of your daddy’s. Scout here, she’s crazy---she won’t fight you anymore.”

Walter enjoys the cooking of Calpurnia despite the taunting and rudeness of Scout. It was probably the best meal that he had ever eaten.

On the other hand, Jem treats Walter as though he were his equal.  Jem has already learned the lesson that both Calpurnia and Atticus convey to Scout.  “Never judge another person until you have walked around in their shoes.” This lesson will serve both children well.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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