What do we learn about the Cunningham clan in chapter 2 of To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Cunninghams are poor farmers but good people, and they are proud.

Scout gets in trouble with her teacher Miss Caroline when she tries to explain that Walter Cunningham does not have a lunch and cannot borrow a quarter from her to buy one.  A Cunningham is not going to borrow something he can’t pay back.

They never took anything off of anybody, they get along on what they have. They don't have much, but they get along on it. (ch 2)

Walter may not own shoes or have a lunch, but unlike the Ewells he has clean clothes and comes to school.  Walter’s father is a farmer, and likes to live off the land and what he can hunt.  He does not want to take anything from anyone and show that he cannot support his family on his own.

When Walter Cunningham Sr. has a legal problem that Atticus helps him with, Cunningham can’t pay him in money so he pays him in livestock, produce, and anything else.  He makes sure he gets paid, and Atticus understands this.

 Atticus comments that there are different types of poor people.  The professionals like the Finches are somewhat poor because their clients have no money to give them, but they are not as poor as the Cunninghams that have hardly anything and cannot afford shoes.  The Ewells are even poorer still, and have no pride.  They live like animals by the dump.


gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 2, Scout attempts to explain to Miss Caroline why Walter Cunningham Jr. will not accept her quarter to buy lunch. Unfortunately, Scout has difficulty articulating her knowledge of the Cunningham family and naively assumes that Miss Caroline is familiar with the ways of Walter's family. Scout informs the reader that the Cunningham family never takes anything from anyone they cannot pay back, which illustrates their respectful, honorable nature.

Scout goes on to mention that her knowledge of the "Cunningham tribe" stems from Atticus's business transactions with Walter Jr.'s father. Scout proceeds to elaborate on the unique way that Walter Cunningham paid Atticus to handle his entailment. Instead of money, Walter offered Atticus payment in stove wood, hickory nuts, turnip greens, and a crate of smilax and holly. Atticus explains to Scout that the Cunninghams have no money because the economic crash adversely affected farmers. Because of her knowledge of the Cunningham family, Scout 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 stove wood" (Lee, 22).

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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