Since the Cunninghams are poor in To Kill a Mockingbird, how do they pay Atticus, who is a lawyer, and the doctor for the services they received?  

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As the other answers have well stated, the Cunninghams, who are poor and have no cash, pay Atticus for his legal services in goods. These include firewood, hickory nuts, smilax (a shrub with medicinal uses), holly, and turnips greens. Most of these goods are of very little value, but they...

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As the other answers have well stated, the Cunninghams, who are poor and have no cash, pay Atticus for his legal services in goods. These include firewood, hickory nuts, smilax (a shrub with medicinal uses), holly, and turnips greens. Most of these goods are of very little value, but they are indicative of the Cunningham's desire to be respectable and pay their debts. As Scout tries to explain to her out-of-town teacher, Miss Caroline:

The Cunninghams never took anything they can’t pay back—no church baskets and no scrip stamps.

The Cunninghams, as farmers, are hardest hit by the Great Depression, Atticus explains to Scout. But because they have pride, they do the best they can to at least demonstrate that they will not accept charity.

Atticus is happy to have Walter Cunningham as a dinner guest, and Calpurnia scolds Scout and gives her a "stinging slap" for criticizing Walter for pouring molasses all over his food. However, when she moves in with the family, Aunt Alexandria refuses to allow Scout to invite Walter over, stating that:

Jean Louise will not invite Walter Cunningham to this house. If he were her double first cousin once removed he would still not be received in this house.

When Scout asks for an explanation, Aunt Alexandra says it is because he is "trash," and she will pick up bad habits from associating with him.

The Cunninghams help show the many subtle class graduations among whites in Maycomb. They may be poor and, in Aunt Alexandra's eyes, "trash," but they are, all the same, in a different league from the Ewells, who are shiftless and accept charity.

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In chapter two, Scout stands up for Walter Cunningham Jr. at lunch and attempts to explain to Miss Caroline why he refuses to accept her quarter. Scout is familiar with the Cunninghams and understands that they are poor, morally-upright people who keep their word and would never borrow anything they could not payback. Scout mentions that her knowledge of the Cunningham family was gained from the events that transpired the previous winter.

Walter's father is a poor farmer who became one of Atticus's clients. According to Scout, Walter Cunningham requested Atticus's services to help him with his entailment, which is a legal process that prevents properties from being sold as a way to keep the property in a family's possession. The entailed property could not be sold outside of a family, and it is suggested that Walter needed to loan some of his land in order to pay his debts, which is why he requested Atticus's assistance.

Since Walter Cunningham had no cash, he bartered for Atticus's services by repaying him in natural farm goods. Walter Cunningham remains true to his word and pays Atticus back by giving him a load of stovewood, a sack of hickory nuts, a crate of smilax and holly, and a croaker sack full of turnip greens. Atticus also mentions that Dr. Reynolds works the same way by bartering with his clients. According to Atticus, Dr. Reynolds charges some folks a bushel of potatoes to deliver their baby.

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The Cunninghams pay Atticus in farm goods.

The Cunninghams are a poor but respectable family in Maycomb.  They have a lot of pride, and a Cunningham never borrows money that he can’t repay.  Scout has a classmate, Walter Cunningham, who refused to borrow a quarter from the teacher for lunch.  Scout asked him home for dinner, however, and he accepted. 

When the Cunninghams need Atticus’s help with an entailment on their farm, Scout asks Atticus if the Cunninghams will ever pay him for his law services.  Atticus tells her that the Cunninghams can’t pay cash, but they will pay eventually.

One morning Jem and I found a load of stovewood in the back yard.

Later, a sack of hickory nuts appeared on the back steps. With Christmas came a crate of smilax and holly. That spring when we found a crokersack full of turnip greens, Atticus said Mr. Cunningham had more than paid him. (Ch. 2)

Atticus has to accept payment for services from farmers in the form of goods like wood and chickens.  This is because he knows that they can’t pay.  It is the Great Depression, and everyone is poor.  It is an especially bad time for farmers.

Atticus said professional people were poor because the farmers were poor. As Maycomb County was farm country, nickels and dimes were hard to come by for doctors and dentists and lawyers. (Ch. 2)

Bartering for services is actually very common even today.  It is a good way for someone to get something he needs without actually paying money.  Sometimes one person has something another person needs, and that person has something he needs too.  It is a win-win situation.

The Cunninghams are generally more respectable than the Ewells, who are poor but have no pride.  Atticus respects the Cunninghams, but says the Ewells live like pigs.  Although there is the incident with the mob, the Cunninghams seem to be a good group of people. 

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