What are some quotes by Walter Cunningham in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are actually two Walter Cunninghams in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The father is one of Atticus' former clients who reappears as one of the members of the lynch mob who tries to take Tom Robinson from the jail. His son, Walter Jr., is one of Scout's classmates at school. She blames him for her bad start on the first day of first grade, "rubbing his nose in the dirt" as payback. Jem breaks up the fight and invites him back to the Finches' house for lunch. The Cunninghams are extremely poor farmers, and Walter is a skinny, hookworm-laden lad who comes to school each day without lunch or lunch money. The family is often compared to the Ewells, but in a much more positive way: Though poor, the Cunninghams are honest and Walter Jr. always comes to school in clean clothing.

Walter's father says little during the novel, but he is moved by Scout's innocent conversation and her friendship with Walter Jr. in front of the jail. Instead of roughing up Atticus and removing Tom Robinson from his cell, Mr. Cunningham does an about-face.

   "I'll tell him you said hey, little lady," he said.
   Then he straightened up and waved a big paw. "Let's clear out," he called. "Let's get going, boys." 

Like Jem and Scout, Walter Jr. is also afraid of Boo Radley, having barely survived one episode.

   "Ever hear about him, Walter?"
   "Reckon I have," said Walter. "Almost died first year I come to school and et them pecans--folks say he pizened 'em and put 'em over on the school side of the fence."

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since Walter Cunningham Sr. has very few lines, I will focus on his son. Walter Cunningham Jr. is a shy, minor character, who also does not have many quotes throughout the novel. In chapter 2, Walter refuses to use Miss Caroline's quarter to buy lunch because he knows that he cannot pay her back. Unfortunately, Scout gets into trouble attempting to defend Walter and is forced to stand in the corner of the room. In chapter 3, Scout is beating up Walter on the playground when Jem intercedes and invites Walter over for dinner. While the three children are walking to the Finch house, Jem begins talking about their mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley. When Jem asks Walter if he's ever heard of Boo, Walter responds by saying,

"Reckon I have...Almost died first year I come to school and et them pecans—folks say he pizened ’em and put ’em over on the school side of the fence" (Lee, 23).

During dinner, Walter and Atticus discuss crops and farming, which is a subject that confounds Scout and Jem. Walter then explains to Atticus why he cannot pass the first grade. Walter 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’, but there’s another’n at the house now that’s field size" (Lee, 24).

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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