One of the most telling episodes regarding Walter Cunningham happens in Chapters 2-3. The town's new teacher, Ms. Caroline, asks all students who are not going home for lunch to take out their lunches and set them on their desks. Walter doesn't have a lunch, and Ms. Caroline insists that...
One of the most telling episodes regarding Walter Cunningham happens in Chapters 2-3. The town's new teacher, Ms. Caroline, asks all students who are not going home for lunch to take out their lunches and set them on their desks. Walter doesn't have a lunch, and Ms. Caroline insists that he take a quarter to buy himself a lunch for the day. She says he can pay her back the next day. Walter refuses many times, and finally Scout jumps in and explains to Ms. Caroline that Walter is a Cunningham, and Cunninghams "never took anything they can't pay back."
Later in the chapter, Scout rubs Walter's nose in the dirt, so Jem invites him over for lunch that day. During lunch, Walter and Atticus have a very adult-like conversation about crops and the problems of farming, until Scout interrupts and questions/scolds Walter for drowning his food in syrup.
This chapter shows the reader much about Walter Cunningham. First off, we see that he is a proud little boy, probably because his family has raised him that way. He refuses to accept Ms. Caroline's quarter, even though he is clearly hungry, because he knows he cannot repay it. We see that he is forgiving since he goes to Scout's house and sits peacefully at the table with her, even after she rubbed his nose in the dirt. We see in his conversation with Atticus that he is mature and wise, though not academically inclined. He can't seem to pass the first grade, but he can carry on a conversation with an adult about farming. All of these details really come together to show how poor Walter and his family really are. His description of having "no color in his face" and looking as if "he had been raised on fish food" illustrate how the child is not receiving enough nutrition, further reinforced by the fact that he pours syrup (extra calories) all over his food.