To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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In Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, does Atticus view Mr. Cunningham as a good or bad person? 

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Icie Brekke eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 15, Mr. Cunningham shows up at the jailhouse to cause mischief, or to kill Tom Robinson, on the night before the trial. Scout notices him and tries to engage in a friendly conversation like any good neighbor would. By asking him multiple questions about his legal problems and his son, she slowly brings out his human side. Scout recalls what happens after asking Mr. Cunningham if he would tell his son hello for her:

"I looked around and up at Mr. Cunningham, whose face was equally impassive. Then he did a peculiar thing. He squatted down and took me by both shoulders.

'I'll tell him you said hey, little lady,' he said. Then he straightened up and waved a big paw, 'Let's clear out,' he called'" (154).

Later, at home, Atticus claims that Mr. Cunningham has a blind spot just like everyone does. Jem doesn't agree, because he thinks Mr. Cunningham would have killed Atticus if he had a chance. Atticus's response shows why he believes that people have both good and bad in them:

"He might have hurt me a little . . . but son, you'll understand folks a little better when you're older. A mob's always made up of people, no matter what. Mr. Cunningham was part of a mob last night, but he was still a man. Every mob in every little Southern town is always made up of people you know. . ." (157).

Atticus is implying that people in mobs are behaving badly, but they are still one's neighbors and human beings. Scout sees this in action as she breaks down Mr. Cunningham's mob mentality and brings out his human side.

Fortunately, people have many...

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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