To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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What are the characteristics of Mr. Walter Cunningham Senior in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Like many of the secondary characters in To Kill A Mockingbird, Mr. Walter Cunningham is a mix of traits, both good and bad.

On the good side, Mr. Cunningham is clearly differentiated from the white trash Ewings, who rely on charity to get by. Scout makes it very clear that Mr. Cunningham will not accept any help for himself or his family. He has impressed that ethic of self-reliance on his children, who adhere to it as a point of pride. Young Walter, who can't afford to bring a lunch to school, would rather go hungry than accept a quarter from his teacher, and Mr. Cunningham himself pays Atticus for his services in turnips, wood, and other products from his farm because he has no cash to spare—but he does pay.

Nevertheless, the honor of the hardworking but poor Mr. Cunningham is a double-edged sword. The same honor that insists he make it on his own and pay his own way also leads him to want to lynch Tom Robinson to defend Mayella's honor. His racial prejudice is such that he assumes Tom...

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