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

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Walter Cunningham is poor, but honorable.

Walter Cunningham is a big man, and one of the ones who attend the lynch mob that goes after Atticus to get Tom Robinson.

We are first introduced to the Cunningham family through his son Walter.  Walter is poor, and has hookworms because he does not wear shoes.

He had probably never seen three quarters together at the same time in his life. (ch 2)

Walter’s family does care though.  Even though he can’t afford lunch or shoes, he does have a “clean shirt and neatly mended overalls” (ch 2).  Unlike the Ewells, for example, Mr. Cunningham does send his son to school.

Scout lectures Miss Caroline on the Cunningham etiquette and family values.

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" (Chapter 2).

Scout invites Walter to lunch, and he forgets he’s a Cunningham.  Walter’s maturity reflects well on his father.  He is a dignified, well-behaved young man.  To Scout, Finches are better than Cunninghams, but Calpurnia reminds her that it is one’s behavior that matters.

Mr. Cunningham is a hard worker.  Because he is an honorable man, he wants to protect young Mayella’s honor by lynching Tom Robinson so there is no trial.

Mr. Cunningham wore no hat, and the top half of his forehead was white in contrast to his sunscorched face, which led me to believe that he wore one most days. He shifted his feet, clad in heavy work shoes. (ch 15)

While Mr. Cunningham is surprised that a little girl showed up and started talking about his son, he also is polite enough to acknowledge her.  Her presence shamed him into leaving, because the reality of the situation hits him and he sees what he is doing.  He does not want a child to get hurt, and in fact does not want anyone to get hurt.

The fact that the mob respects Cunningham shows his standing in the community, and the fact that he leaves shows his strength of character. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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