What is Scout's relationship with Walter Cunningham in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout gets to know both of the Walter Cunninghams during the course of To Kill a Mockingbird. On her first day of school, Scout discovers that Walter Jr. is one of her classmates. She tries to defend him when Miss Caroline questions him about having no lunch money, but Scout only ends up being "spanked" with a ruler and sitting in the corner. She takes out her frustrations at lunch by pounding Walter in the schoolyard, but when Jem breaks up the one-sided fight, they invite Walter to lunch. Scout gets in more trouble, this time with Calpurnia, when she embarrasses Walter by pointing out that all food should not be drenched in molasses. Walter serves as the subject of one of Scout's lessons about intolerance when Atticus tells her that

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

As the third grade approaches, Scout decides to invite Walter over again for lunch, and she looks forward to seeing him during the upcoming year. But Aunt Alexandra objects, and she forbids Walter from the house,

"Because--he--is--trash..."

Walter and his people from Old Sarum serve as a comparison to the Ewell family: Alexandra sees little difference between the two families, but Jem and Scout recognize that Walter is different from Burris Ewell.

"That Walter's as smart as he can be... Nothin's wrong with him."

To Scout, Walter is just "Folks"--just like the Finches.

Scout also gets to meet Walter's father up close when he and a group of men confront Atticus at the jail. Scout's innocent little talk with Walter Sr. convinces the man to leave the jail and forget about their plans to lynch Tom Robinson.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout is familiar with Walter's family from Atticus's interactions with Walter's father. On Scout's first day of school, she attempts to stick up for Walter Cunningham Jr. during lunchtime by explaining to Miss Caroline why he will not accept her quarter. Unfortunately, Scout cannot articulate her thoughts and ends up getting punished. Following her punishment, Scout beats up Walter Cunningham Jr. on the playground. Later on that day, Scout gets into trouble during dinner when she makes rude comments regarding Walter's eating habits. Despite her rough start with Walter Jr., Scout becomes friends with him and even asks if she can invite Walter over to play. However, Scout's prejudiced aunt refuses to allow her to play with Walter Jr. because he comes from a lower-class family. Throughout the novel, Scout does not develop a close relationship with Walter Jr. but is amiable with him and expresses her desire to invite Walter over to play. Being friends with Walter Jr. also quells the tension during the mob scene when Scout recognizes and speaks to Walter's father. Her friendly relationship with Walter plays a significant role in chapter 15. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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