In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, when Jem asks Atticus if they are as poor as the Cunninghams, how does Atticus respond?

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Walter Cunningham was Scout's classmate and his father, Walter, was Atticus 's client. Their poverty was well known to Scout, so when the schoolteacher offers to lend Walter a quarter to buy his lunch, Scout jumps in to explain that he is one of the "country folks" who don't...

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Walter Cunningham was Scout's classmate and his father, Walter, was Atticus's client. Their poverty was well known to Scout, so when the schoolteacher offers to lend Walter a quarter to buy his lunch, Scout jumps in to explain that he is one of the "country folks" who don't take anything they can't pay back, and they "don't have much, but they get along on it."

This knowledge came to Scout because Atticus had told the older Walter Cunningham, in hearing of the children, not to worry about paying him for his services. But Atticus assured the children that Mr. Cunningham would pay him within the year. When the payment came in the form of stovewood, smilax and holly, and turnip greens, Scout asked Atticus if their family was poor, to which he replied yes. Jem then asked if they were as poor as the Cunninghams.

Atticus said, "Not exactly." He explained that "the crash" hit the country folk the hardest, but that lawyers and doctors, who made their money from serving the country folk, would take payment in forms other than cash. For example, the doctor charged "a bushel of potatoes for delivery of a baby." Atticus then went on to explain to Scout and Jem what "entailment" was, saying that Jem's description of it as "a condition of having your tail in a crack" was not so far off.

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In Chapter 2, Scout attempts to defend Walter Cunningham, Jr. for not accepting Miss Caroline's quarter at lunch. Scout simply says, "Miss Caroline, he's a Cunningham," believing she has fully explained the situation (Lee 26). Scout mentions that she has a unique understanding of the "Cunningham tribe" because Walter Cunningham, Sr. was one of Atticus' clients. Scout explains how Walter paid Atticus for his services in stovewood, hickory nuts, smilax and holly, and turnip greens. Scout found it odd that Mr. Cunningham paid Atticus like that instead of using money, and Atticus tells her that the Cunninghams didn't have any money. Scout then asks, "Are we poor, Atticus?" and Atticus responds, "We are indeed" (Lee 27). Jem then asks if they are as poor as the Cunninghams and Atticus says, "Not exactly. The Cunninghams are country folks, farmers, and the crash hit them hardest" (Lee 27). Atticus goes on to explain to his children that professionals, like himself, were poor because farmers were poor. He tells his children that Maycomb is a farming community, meaning professionals were not always paid in cash for their services. Mr. Cunningham pays professionals like Atticus with whatever he can. The Depression drastically affected the farming community, which in turn affected the professionals in town who made their money from farmers.

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