Explain the scene between Miss Caroline and Walter Cunningham in Chapter 2 of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Expert Answers
sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Caroline, Scout's teacher, is new to the town of Maycomb.  She does not understand the people of the town, their backgrounds, or their culture.  She is also new to teaching.  She believes that the classroom and her instruction should progress in a deliberate manner.  She demonstrate this when she ridicules Scout for having already learned how to read, believing that there is only one proper way to teach this skill, and Scout must be hindered by her substandard instruction.

She further demonstrates her tunnel vision in her interaction with Walter.  When it is time for lunch, she sees that Walter has made no attempt to eat.  She tries to lend him a quarter, not understanding that this is an insult to the Cunningham family, who are both responsible and proud and don't believe in borrowing.  Walter, shy and embarrassed, has difficulty making Miss Caronline understand; she is convinced that he must just take her money and comes close to bullying him in her attempt to be kind.

Scout finally steps in, and is punished for her efforts.  Miss Caroline accuses Scout of meddling and being disrespectful.  This is an opportunity for Scout to understand that adults will not always be reasonable or fair, no matter how kind their intentions.  It also opens the door for more interaction between Scout and Walter, which is another growing experience for the young girl.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 2, Miss Caroline notices that Walter Cunningham Jr. does not have a lunch and offers him a quarter to buy one at the school. However, Walter refuses to accept Miss Caroline's money. Walter is a shy boy who doesn't explain to his teacher why he will not accept her offer. Miss Caroline is confused and Scout attempts to explain to her why Walter will not take her quarter. Scout naively tells her teacher,

"Miss Caroline, he's a Cunningham" (Lee 14).

Miss Caroline, who is a newcomer to Maycomb, does not understand what Scout means. Scout proceeds to tell Miss Caroline that the Cunninghams are country folks who never take anything they cannot pay back. Finally, Scout gets frustrated at her inability to explain why Walter will not accept Miss Caroline's coin and tells her teacher,

"You're shamin' him, Miss Caroline. Walter hasn't got a quarter at home to bring you, and you can't use any stovewood" (Lee 15).

Scout's comment offends Miss Caroline, who punishes her by tapping a ruler a dozen times on Scout's hand and making her stand in the corner. Scout was simply trying to defend her classmate Walter Cunningham and ended up getting herself into trouble again. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question