It is difficult to compare Miss Caroline to Atticus. Miss Caroline had just arrived from Northern Alabama. She was only twenty-one which means that this was probably her first year of teaching. Jem tells Scout that she just learned a new reading system in college. She didn't know the community, and she was unfamiliar with country ways. She doesn't know Walter's family. Scout tries to inform her. Scout has grown up with Walter and knows Walter's family. She tries to explain this to Miss Caroline.
"The Cunninghams never took anything they can't pay back - no church baskets and no scrip stamps. 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." (pg 20)
Atticus, on the other hand, has known the Cunningham's a long time. Atticus was an attorney and represented Walter's father. When Walter's father said that they could not pay Atticus, Atticus said not to worry about it. He knew that it would be paid in kind, such as stovewood or turnip greens. When Scout asks Atticus if they are as poor as the Cunningham's, Atticus replies,
"The Cunninghams are country folks, farmers, and the crash hit them hardest." (pg 21)
When Walter comes for lunch and pours maples syrup on his vegetables and meat, Scout is horrified and speaks out about it. Calpurnia and Atticus both reprimand her. Scout is surprised to see Atticus discussing crops with Walter and realized that neither she nor Jem knew what they were talking about.
Atticus recognizes that Walter has had to grow up quickly. He doesn't have the education of other children, but he is knowledgeable in things such as crops. He tells Atticus,
"Reason I can't pass the first grade, Mr. Finch, is I've had to stay out ever' spring an' help Papa with the choppin'..." (pg 24)
Atticus has known the Cunninghams his whole life. He lives in this area of Alabama, he is a political representative for the area, and he is aware of how poverty has affected the area. Miss Caroline is young, naive, and unaware of the community.