What does Scout mean when she says that something is a part of the "ethical culture"? Why does she say that it's different with money in To Kill A Mockingbird? Scout says, "Plucking an occasional camellia, getting a squirt of hot milk from Miss Maudie Atkinson's cow on a summer day, helping ourselves to someone's scuppernongs was a part of our ethical culture, but money was different."

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Scout is referring to the old Southern value system that she has inherited. This is what she means by "ethical culture," the moral climate in which she's been brought up. The prevailing ethical standards determine the right thing to do—what's morally acceptable. And according to this code, you don't take someone else's money, even if it's just a couple of old coins left in the knot of a tree.

Picking a camellia from someone else's garden or getting a drink of milk from a cow or helping yourself to scuppernongs—a variety of grape—are a different matter entirely. All of these activities are considered perfectly acceptable according to the prevailing moral standards, even though technically they could be construed as stealing. The main difference is that all of those things—flowers, cow's milk, grapes—are part of the natural world. There's a sense, therefore, in which they belong to everybody. Money, on the other hand, is private property and always belongs to specific individuals in Scout's culture. It is theirs and cannot be taken from them without disrupting society's code of moral standards. The knot of the tree may be a part of nature, but the coins inside it are most certainly not.

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This passage from Chapter 4 of To Kill a Mockingbird, is said by Scout after having found two "scrubbed and polished" 1900 and 1916 Indian head pennies in the knothole of the Radley tree.

But Scout and Jem are nonplussed (completely surprised) by the discovery and bewildered about what to do with them because keeping money someone finds is not part of Scout and Jem's "ethical culture." That is, taking money one finds is equivalent to stealing, but eating the wild scuppernongs (a large white grape with a thick skin that thrives in Alabama, although originally from North Carolina, and that is named after a river) in Miss Maudie's arbor, or stealing a squirt of warm milk from the cow, or even picking "an occasional camellia" are considered acceptable behavior for children.

Because Southerners were almost all descended from those immigrants from the British Isles, and because few people migrated to the South before air conditioning was invented, a distinct culture was generated in this part of the country. And, part of this culture was the unwritten code for what was permissible for children to which Scout alludes. 

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