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According to Jem there are "four kinds of folks in the world."
"There's the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there's the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes." (Chapter 23)
Naturally, Jem's theory is both childlike and simplistic, but in the little world of Maycomb County--whose boundaries Jem and Scout never cross during the entire novel--his idea is not totally inaccurate. The Negroes are on the bottom of the Maycomb social ladder, beset by poverty, racism and the Jim Crow laws in effect throughout the Deep South during the Great Depression. The Ewells are the epitome of "poor white trash": Filthy, hateful, dishonest and unemployed, the family lives off Bob's welfare check and what they can "glean" from the dump, which their home fittingly borders. The Cunninghams are as poor as the Ewells, and their dislike of Negroes is evident by their decision to take Tom Robinson from the jail and lynch him. But unlike the Ewells, the Cunninghams display their independence by living isolated "in the northern part of the county," where they attempt to eke out an honest living as farmers. Young Walter Jr. comes to school hungry but in clean clothes, unlike Burris Ewell, "the filthiest human I had ever seen." Jem considers most of the rest of the townspeople as "ordinary," for they share many of the same beliefs and behaviors as the Finch family. They live in homes on Maycomb's residential streets, where the fathers hold down jobs and the families attend the local Methodist and Baptist churches.
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