In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout said, "He ain't company, Cal, he is just a Cunningham." What did she mean by that, and what was Cal's answer?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a novel that is largely about the falseness of prejudice, so to speak, Scout's views of Walter Cunningham (and, by extension, his family) are highly significant. 

Saying the Walter does not qualify as "company," Scout is implying that the popular view of the Cunningham's as nothing more than poor may be expanded to also suggest that the family should not be counted and do not belong in the category of "real people."

Scout's statement is an example of "classism" or class discrimination. Calpurnia's response is that Scout should not put herself (or her humanity) above that of others. 

This opposed pair of view points resonates with many other episodes of prejudice being challenged in the novel. Boo Radley is pre-judged by many in the community, but turns out to be quite a different person from the prevalent, gossip-driven view of his character.

Thus the novel's examination of race prejudice stands alongside its treatment of class prejudice, age prejudice and gossip-based local prejudice.

The notion of empathy and subjectivity of perspective is repeated throughout the novel and addressed directly on several occasions.

The lesson Atticus gives to Scout can be said to stand as a unifying thread that connects the various episodes of the novel and which functions also as the moral of the book. 

“First of all,” he said, “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—“


“—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout says this to Calpurnia in Chapter 3.  She is talking about Walter Cunningham.

Walter comes to eat at the Finch home because Jem invites him.  Jem feels bad, I think, because Scout had been beating Walter up.

When Scout says this, she is telling Calpurnia that Walter does not deserve to be treated like company.  She says that he is just a Cunningham and is therefore low class and does not need to be treated well.

Calpurnia gets really angry at her and tells her that anyone who comes in the house is company whether they are rich or poor.

"Hush your mouth! Don't matter who they are, anybody sets foot in
this house's yo' comp'ny, and don't you let me catch you remarkin'
on their ways like you was so high and mighty!

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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