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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."
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